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. 

As the May 31st deadline for passing a new budget looms, Governor Rauner and the Legislature continue to bicker.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel this week.


As Illinois lawmakers grapple with a budget shortfall, a measure to impose a tax on millionaires' income came up short.

Adding a surcharge to income over a million dollars to raise more money for Illinois schools was a concept Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced last year, but there wasn't enough support.

Now, as Illinois faces a $6 billion budget gap, he's brought it back.

"We're simply asking those that have done well in life to help our educational system," Madigan said.

But his effort came up short, by three votes.

public domain

Bobcats, beware. Illinois lawmakers have renewed their call to lift a ban on hunting bobcats.

Former Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a previous attempt in one of his last acts as governor.

Bobcats are off limits to hunters now. Democratic Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora wants to keep it that way.

"There isn't a need to get rid of this animal, which is a native predator species in the state," Holmes said.

She says the bobcat population is fragile, and unlike hunters' other prey, which carnivorous eaters can turn into a meal, bobcats are solely hunted as trophies.


By the end of this month, Illinois legislators are slated to be done with their work. That means passing a new budget. Amanda Vinicky checks in with how that's progressing -- including in the eyes of the state's new governor. 

Amanda Vinicky / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner has stayed out of the public eye for the past couple of days. But he's making his feelings on the budget known in an op-ed that came out late Wednesday night.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers are debating whether the wealthy should take on a bigger tax burden.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan first surged the idea before last year's election, when .01-percenter Bruce Rauner was just a candidate.

Now, with Rauner as governor and calling for widespread cuts, Madigan has brought it back. He proposes adding a three-percent surcharge on all income over a million dollars, with the revenue going to schools.

The Illinois House chamber uses a ventilation system that circulates air from columns in the chamber to the attic, where the air is filtered and dispersed over the lawmakers’ desks.
Bethany Jaeger / WUIS/Illinois Issues

With just a dozen days until the General Assembly is set to adjourn, there is a crescendo of partisan accusations. Republican and Democratic legislators both continue to publicly say they hope to reach a bipartisan budget solution, even as both sides accuse the other of bargaining in bad faith.

Amanda Vinicky

Look at the photo on this post; it's the board of the Illinois House after representatives voted on House Speaker Michael Madigan's version of Gov. Bruce Rauner's local right-to-work zones. 

Michael J. Madigan headshot

This week, Illinois House Democrats defeated Governor Rauner's "Right to Work" agenda.  Also, with the Illinois Supreme Court's decision last week, the future of state pension funding is still in question.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Democrats have knocked one of the new Republican governor's top priorities down to an easy defeat. The Illinois House yesterday voted against Bruce Rauner's notion of local right-to-work zones. The issue is highly contentious on its own. But a broader division was also at play. Before we get to the right-to-work debate, it's important to rewind some.

Zach Bernard

New ways to tackle Illinois' underfunded pension systems could be emerging, as the Republican governor appears to be backing away from his plan.

There's good reason many lawmakers are feeling flummoxed. Illinois' budget is already sagging. And with last week's state Supreme Court decision tossing a major pension law, the deficit is larger still.

The court decision was unequivocal - it's not constitutional to cut state employees' retirement benefits.

Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Bruce Rauner's right-to-work proposal will get a hearing today in the Illinois House. Unions are putting pressure on lawmakers to vote against the proposal.

Though the Illinois House is set to vote on the Republican governor's idea of local right-to-work zones, it's not because Rauner's pushing for a vote.

Gov. Rauner unveiled the concept in late January, during an appearance in Decatur, and has talked about it a lot since. But no actual legislation's been introduced. There are only weeks left in the legislative session.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The former chairman of Amtrak told Illinois lawmakers Wednesday that service cuts are inevitable should Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed 40 percent funding cut takes effect.

Fifty-six Amtrak trains run daily in Illinois. They run from Chicago to St. Louis, to Carbondale, to Quincy and up to Milwaukee, and more travelers are riding them.

Amtrak's former chairman Thomas Carper says he can't say how many, or which of those routes will be dropped.

But he says that will happen if Illinois doesn't come through with about $42 million.

John Cullerton
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even though John Cullerton went along with the pension law that on Friday was found by the state's high court to be unconstitutional, the Illinois Senate President had always favored another approach. Now he's saying (well, not exactly in these exact words ... ) "I told you so." In this episode of The Players -- a podcast about who's who in Illinois politics and what they're up to -- Amanda Vinicky spoke with the Senate's top Democrat about his plans to try again.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Illinois House today held a special hearing known as a committee on the whole, centered on part of Gov. Bruce Rauner's "Turnaround Agenda" -- this time, centered on what business interests call "tort reform." Critics say it's tort deform.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

It took legislators years of talking about Illinois' pension problem before they did much about it. There was a 2011 law that affects state employees, university professors, and public school teachers hired after that time. Then in 2013 they passed a law that reduced current workers' and retirees' benefits. Nearly immediately, workers and their unions sued, calling the law unconstitutional. 

Amanda Vinicky

Credit ratings agencies have had swift reactions to Friday's state Supreme Court decision that found Illinois' 2013 pension law unconstitutional.

Illinois' was expecting to save billions by reducing state workers, teachers' and university employees' retirement benefits. But not anymore, thanks to an unanimous decision by the state's high court tossing the law.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the 2013 pension legislation that would have cut retirement benefits for state wokers.  Meanwhile, the House began debating the governor’s "Turnaround Agenda."  And Governor Rauner personally addressed the Chicago City Council.  Illinois Issues Executive Editor Jamey Dunn joins the panel discussion.

House floor
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal to cut the state budget took a spectacular fall Wednesday in the Illinois House.

The new Republican governor's plan reduces Illinois' budget by $6 billion for the next fiscal year.

That means doing away with, or spending less, on everything from healthcare for the poor, autism services and support for older foster kids.

No GOP legislator has actually introduced a bill that would precipitate those cuts. So in a surprise move, the Democratic Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, took it upon himself.

Exelon is amping up its threat to close three nuclear power plants, unless there's help from the legislature.

The company says it's not a bailout and instead argues its trying to level the playing field. Illinois already gives some incentives for renewable sources, like energy and wind.

Supporters of Exelon's measure, like Democratic Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr. of Joliet, say nuclear power deserves that push.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois just overhauled its workers' compensation system in 2011, but lawmakers are considering further changes at the behest of businesses and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The full Illinois House spent much of Tuesday in a rare, full committee meeting focused on workers' compensation. But they didn't vote.

Businesses say workers' comp is one of their biggest competitive disadvantages compared with companies in neighboring states.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

*Update - according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, the hearing originally scheduled for May 7, has been delayed until the morning of June 10.

The State Board of Elections will hold a hearing to determine whether Governor Bruce Rauner's campaign violated state elections law.

Bruce Rauner's campaign spent at least $65 million to win the governor's office. Now, state election authorities are looking into whether he missed a deadline to report some of that success.

Amanda Vinicky

It was weeks after Abraham Lincoln's death in mid-April, that has body made it from Washington, D.C. back to Springfield, Illinois. The lifting of a replica coffin from a car designed to look like Lincoln's funeral train began a series events this weekend in Springfield, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the president's death and burial.

President-elect Barack Obama
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner this afternoon signed a law to help bring President Barack Obama's presidential library to Illinois. The General Assembly rushed to pass the measure just over a week ago.

At a private bill-signing in his office at the capitol, Rauner said he looks forward to having the President's library "come here, to the great state of Illinois."

"It'll be a wonderful institution for the people of our great state and to help drive economic development and tourism, and visitors from all over the United States," he said.

Dan Walker
file / WUIS/Illinois Issues

This week, Governor Bruce Rauner restored $26 million in funding for some of the social service programs that were cut in April.  Also, former Illinois Governor Dan Walker died at the age of 92.  Kurt Erickson of Lee Enterprises' Springfield Bureau joins the panel discussion.

There's a new player in a battle over energy policy that's playing out at the Illinois Capitol. Exelon wants support for its nuclear plants, a renewable energy coalition wants to require more wind and solar, and now a coal company and its supporters want in on the action.

The latest push would give the state's coal industry a boost.

American flag next to tornado wreakage
Lee Strubinger

Illinois’ congressional delegation is trying to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to revise how it distributes aid after natural disasters.

Brass rail outside the Governor's office
Amanda Vinicky / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The pink slips started coming in January.

Employees hired at Democrats’ discretion over the past dozen years were losing their state jobs — an early rattle in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s promised “shakeup” of state government, accompanied by other corresponding rattles, including waves of appointments naming Republicans to take the ousted workers’ places.


A top official with Gov. Bruce Rauner's office confirms, Illinois will restore $26 million in funding for a tobacco quitline, programs for autistic children and other social service grants. Projections show the state is taking in more money than expected.  While some cuts will remain, the windfall frees up money to reverse the cuts Rauner made with little warning on Good Friday, in early April.

The news has Joanne Guthrie-Gard beaming -- one of those "couldn't wipe it off her face" smiles. "I'm ecstatic. I'm so excited," she says.

The mayor of the East Central Illinois town Danville is still hoping to cash in on bringing a casino to the city.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer says he's talked about gaming expansion with Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"We're very hopeful as we go through this legislative session that as they start talking about alternatives to reductions, and look at revenue opportunities, the gaming expansion bill including Danville will be one of those," Eisenhauer said.