Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief/ The Players Blog

Read Amanda's "The Players" blog.

Amanda Vinicky has covered Illinois politics and government for WUIS and the Illinois Public Radio network since 2006.  Highlights include reporting on the historic impeachment and removal from office of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, winning a national award for her coverage of Illinois' electric rate fight as a result of deregulation, and following Illinois' delegations to the Democratic and Republican national political conventions in '08 and '12.  

Though she's full-time with WUIS now, she previously interned with the station in graduate school; she graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program in '05.  She also holds degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. 

Amanda is insatiably curious, so please reach out to her and get in touch if you notice something interesting going on at the Capitol! She can be reached at (217) 206-6019 or (773) 217-0316. If she's not in the statehouse bureau, you can usually find Amanda tweeting, dining at a local restaurant, taking a jog around Springfield or Chicago or practicing yoga. 

LinkedIn

Illinois appears to be headed toward a second year without a budget plan in place after clashes at the capitol Friday. Many legislators are returning to their districts for a short break, but they'll be back Sunday afternoon.

Republican legislators made a commotion about the need to stay in Springfield all weekend long ahead of Tuesday's deadline to get a budget passed.

And in fact, top-ranking lawmakers from both parties will keep meeting at the capitol.

Governor Bruce Rauner's budget director Tim Nuding says a deal is close.

With just days remaining before the scheduled end of the spring legislative session, Democrats and Republicans appear far apart on a state budget and the governor's agenda. Will Illinois enter a second year without a spending plan?

On Wednesday, tempers at the capitol flared; but Thursday the legislature's top Republicans shifted toward an optimistic stance on the budget situation.

flickr: Matt Turner

A potential new state budget barely passed the Illinois House last night,  but Governor Bruce Rauner is already signaling a veto.

Ounce of Prevention

  The number of social service groups suing Illinois is growing. Eighteen agencies are joining a lawsuit against the state to get paid -- since they haven't received $130 million due to the budget impasse. One of the latest groups to sue is notable because of who's in charge.

Amanda Vinicky / Michael Madigan

An attempt to reach a deal on Governor Bruce Rauner's pro-business, anti-labor demands isn't working out for House Democrats, who are set to go it alone on a new state budget. That's the takeaway from a meeting between Rauner and the legislative leaders Wednesday morning.

Republicans -- led by Rauner -- say they won't increase taxes to balance the budget until they get fundamental economic changes.

To that end, bipartisan groups of legislators have been meeting in private on the governor's agenda.

Amanda Vinicky

Unionized state employees worried about stalled contract talks could learn Wedneday whether there's hope for a work-around.

Last week, thousands of union members rallied in Springfield. They asked legislators to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of a bill that would change how the state negotiates with labor. Wednesday they may see if it worked.

Democratic Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch says he plans to call the measure for a vote.

WUIS

The end of the month -- and a major deadline for getting a state budget passed -- is getting ever closer.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is standing firm. He says he'll agree to raising taxes, if Democrats agree with his pro-business, union-weakening agenda.

Lawmakers continue to negotiate those items in private.

Representative Dan Brady, a Republican from Bloomington, is part of the talks.

He says the issues are "tender."

capitol
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

Illinois' top political leaders remain divided. There are only eight days left for them to reach a budget deal.

It's crunch time for the General Assembly.

Amanda Vinicky

It's been a year since the state Supreme Court found Illinois' big pension law unconstitutional, and an attempt to get a new law passed is stalled.

Lawmakers' goal is to reduce the state's expenses for its vastly underfunded pensions.

The court says it's illegal to do it by reducing an employees' retirement benefits.

Senate President John Cullerton and Governor Bruce Rauner think they have a way around that.

flickr/dborman

There's no reason for the governor to further hold up partial funding for social services. That's the message from the Speaker of the Illinois House.

Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice / Kewanee

Even as Illinois loses a youth prison, it's gaining an adult correctional facility.

Illinois' Department of Juvenile Justice is going forward with plans to close the Illinois Youth Center at Kewanee.

Director Candice Jones said recruiting staff was difficult and national practices favor smaller regional facilities.  Plus, she'd said, most of the juvenile offenders sent there were from Cook County; it's better to house them nearer family.  

Kewanee's closer to Iowa than to Chicago.

Most adult prisoners come from Cook County and the surrounding area too.

npr.org

Illinois workers get an added bonus once they retire: They don't have to pay taxes on pension or Social Security checks. It's one possible change the state could look to as it hunts for more money.

Illinois is a rare state that taxes income on a regular paycheck, but not on retirement.

Fiscal experts like the non-partisan Civic Federation say as Illinois' population ages, and there are more seniors, the government will increasingly lose out on a source of revenue.

Wikimedia Commons/user: Bogdan

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is open to decriminalizing marijuana.

Rauner has a goal of reforming the criminal justice system. One way to do that, advocates say: issuing civil penalties for low-level drug charges.

ILGA.gov

Auditor General Frank Mautino is under federal investigation, according to a statement from his spokesman.

The spokesman says Mautino is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's office. He says because it's ongoing, he cannot comment further.

It comes in response to a report in the Illinois Times that Mautino's former campaign workers have been subpoenaed.

Subpoenas don't always lead to charges.

Amanda Vinicky

Unions members flooded streets in front of the Illinois Statehouse to protest Governor Bruce Rauner's agenda, and what they say are his anti-labor policies.

Union workers marched to the capitol for a rally, where they were briefly joined by a pair of prominent Democrats: House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

There was a time (in recent memory) that the labor movement wasn't all too fond of Madigan. Though he's a Democrat, he helped pass bills cutting government worker pension benefits, and he's backed corporate tax breaks.

Amanda Vinicky

Mixed messages came out of a meeting Tuesday between Illinois' governor and legislative leaders. It was their first meeting in months, even as Illinois is in the midst of an unprecedented budget standoff.

Amanda Vinicky

For only the second time this year, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders are set to meet, Tuesday, in Springfield.  It comes as Illinois' historic budget stalemate yawns into May, with two weeks left in legislators' regular session schedule.

These "leaders' meetings" are private, but NPR Illinois Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky had the chance to get some perspective about where the leaders stood going into the confab. 

School desks
Flickr user: dcJohn www.flickr.com/photos/dcjohn/

Illinois' leaders are divided over school funding as ever, even as superintendents continue to sound the alarm about fears education funding will get caught in the political stalemate.

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to increase how much Illinois sends schools overall, by $120 million.

Even then, some districts -- including the financially beleaguered Chicago Public Schools -- would see their state funding drop. Senate President John Cullerton Monday nixed that as a viable option.

Amanda Vinicky

A rough outline of budget ideas for Illinois may already be on the way to a dead-end;  Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is giving a cool reception to a potential budget framework drafted by a group of state legislators.

AFSCME Council 31

A dispute involving labor and a majority of lawmakers on one side, and Gov. Bruce Rauner on the other, is playing on repeat. On Monday, Rauner vetoed legislation backed by AFSCME for the second time in a year.

The legislation may sound innocuous to those not directly impacted.

It would send contract disputes (like one that's going on now) between the Illinois's largest public employees union and the state, to a binding arbitrator, who is supposed to be neutral.

But to Rauner it's "stunning, its atrocious legislation."

flickr/b0r0da

A potential framework for a balanced state budget relies on both cuts, and bringing in more money to state coffers. That does include an income tax hike. But there are other revenue ideas too.

Legislators who've been unable to reach a budget deal since last July have about two weeks left to agree on a new plan, or risk taking the state into a new phase of uncertainty and political gamesmanship.

Video Poker
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Online betting on horse-races would continue to be legal in Illinois, under legislation advancing at the state capitol.

That's despite concerns of anti-gambling activities like Anita Bedell.

"This legalizes bookmaking on the internet, which is available 7 days a week non stop," she said at a recent Senate hearing.

Without legislative action, that authority expires early next year.

The measure is one of several up for debate that affects the gambling industry.

Amanda Vinicky

A state senator's attempt to snuff-out youth smoking fell short when it came up for a vote Thursday.

Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, wants to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 "to prevent tobacco-related disease and death."

wnij

Human service agencies are hopeful legislation approved Thursday by state lawmakers will finally get them money, but they shouldn't start spending just yet.

Legislators and top Rauner administration officials are acknowledging what it’ll take to solve Illinois’ budget mess: billions of dollars in spending cuts and tax hikes. But they're also insisting it's just a possibility, not a bill, and certainly not a deal.

In other news, a familiar name is suing over the "Independent Maps" ballot initiative.

WUIS

  Billions of dollars in cuts are part of a possible budget for next year.  So are higher taxes. 

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois legislators today Thursday approved stopgap funding for human services.

After ten months without state funding … after-school programs, local health departments and substance abuse treatment centers are in critical condition.

Democratic Representative Greg Harris says Senate Bill 2038 would pay social service organizations just under half of what they're owed.

Amanda Vinicky / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Billions of dollars in cuts are part of a possible budget for next year. So are higher taxes.

Illinois built up a deficit over the years; the current impasse has only exacerbated it. A bipartisan group of legislators chosen to craft a solution has a potential path for fiscal year 2017.

Members are cagey about sharing details. It's politically sensitive; members say they're hesitant to share details out of respect for their private negotiations.

Amanda Vinicky

Lawmakers' latest bid to mitigate the damage of the budget impasse centers on helping social services.

Court orders have kept money flowing to certain social services, but many others have had to scale back or close after waiting more than ten months for the state to pay their bills. These autism, drug-treatment, and housing programs would get about $700 million under a measure advanced on a bipartisan basis by an Illinois House committee.

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