Brian Mackey

Reporter/ State of the State Blog

Read Brian Mackey's "State of the State" blog.

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for Illinois Issues magazine, WUIS and a dozen other public radio stations across Illinois. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6412.

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State Week
3:16 pm
Fri April 24, 2015

Listen to State Week - April 24, 2015

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

This week, the Illinois legislature worked to restore some of Governor Rauner's social service cuts and convened a oversight committee to examine the reasoning behind them.  Meanwhile, Governor Rauner continued his efforts to eliminate public sector "fair share" union dues.  Also, a bill decriminalizing possession of certain amounts of marijuana moves from the House to the Senate.  Jamey Dunn of Illinois Issues magazine joins the panel discussion.

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State Week
2:21 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Listen to State Week - April 17, 2015

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

This week's discussion includes the fallout over Governor Bruce Rauner's cuts to social services and House Speaker Michael Madigan's new budget oversight panel.  Paris Schutz, political reporter for WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" joins us for the program.

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Statehouse
12:53 am
Fri April 17, 2015

At Annual Ceremony, Holocaust Survivor Shares Story

Holocaust survivor Magda Brown shares her story at Illinois' annual memorial ceremony.

Illinois officials gathered in Springfield Thursday for the annual Holocaust memorial ceremony. As happens every year, a survivor shared her story.

Magda Brown grew up in Hungary. On her 17th birthday in 1944, she was sent to the the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Upon arrival, her mother was sent somewhere else, so after a few days she asked the more experienced prisoners when she might see her relatives again. Their hands went up, pointing to the chimneys over the crematorium.

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Statehouse
2:27 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

Democrats Press Governor On Pensions

Sen. Daniel Biss, right, and Rep. Elaine Nekritz are calling for an actuarial analysis of the governor's pension proposals.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s ideas about how to change government-employee pensions are getting extra scrutiny in Springfield.

Rauner wants employees to be moved into less generous plans for future pension benefits.

So far, it’s just something he’s just talked about. Democrats who’ve long focused on pension issues say that needs to change.

Sen. Daniel Biss, of Evanston, is calling for an actuarial analysis. He also says the idea that legislation would be passed and make it through the inevitable court challenge anytime soon is a “fantasy."

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State Week
3:26 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Listen to State Week - April 3, 2015

Credit Tammy Duckworth

Much of the focus of this week's political news centered on Washington D.C.  U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Mark Kirk.   And with the upcoming retirement of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, there are questions whether Senator Dick Durbin will continue as Minority Whip after 2016.  Also, the latest on beleaguered former Congressman Aaron Schock.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel to discuss those and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

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Statehouse
9:31 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

Falling Union Membership? The Governor Has A Theory About That ...

Gov. Bruce Rauner shares his theory of union membership decline with members of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce in March.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner has spent much of his first few months in office talking about labor unions. He’s shared not only policy proposals, but also his ideas about the history of the union movement. I wrote about the state of labor in the April edition of Illinois Issues magazine and decided to take a closer look at one the governor’s theories.

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
12:00 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Should Illinois End Its Retirement Tax Break?

Brian Mackey writes the State of the State column for Illinois Issues magazine.
Credit mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

News Analysis — Illinois continues to be pummeled with bad budget news. The General Assembly’s nonpartisan budget analysts at the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability say income tax receipts will be down $1.9 billion in the next fiscal year. That’s thanks to the tax cut that took effect January 1, lowering the individual income tax rate from 5 percent to 3.75 percent.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Illinois Labor – Its Historic Rise And Gradual Fall

A World War II poster urging cooperation between management and labor.
Credit The Federal Government Via Northwestern University

In retrospect it seems obvious. Of course the fight to topple organized labor would eventually have to come to Illinois. It was only a matter of time. Labor’s perpetual weakness in the deep-red South would never be enough. And once the vanishing industrial base sufficiently enfeebled labor in the red states of the rust belt, the dwindling number of fat targets made a blue-state offensive inevitable.

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Band-Aid Budget
5:26 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

Listen to State Week - March 27, 2015

Gov. Bruce Rauner, standing at right, address members of his Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, which met for the first time this week.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois General Assembly this week approved a fix for Illinois short-term budget problems, but deeper issues remain. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock took his final vote in Congress and gave a farewell address. Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell joins the panel to discuss that and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

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'Islamic State' Arrests
8:40 am
Fri March 27, 2015

State, Feds Cooperated To Investigate National Guardsman

Rodger Heaton, center, is public safety director in Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration. On Thursday, he presided over the first meeting of the governor's Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Two Chicago-area cousins accused of trying to help the so-called Islamic State made their first appearance in court Thursday. A top Illinois law enforcement official says the state's National Guard worked with federal authorities to prevent an attack.

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Statehouse
8:26 am
Fri March 27, 2015

Sentencing Commission Sets Ambitious Goal

Gov. Bruce Rauner, standing at right, address members of his Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A task force meant to overhaul Illinois’ criminal justice system is meeting for the first time Thursday in Springfield.

Gov. Bruce Rauner briefly addressed the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, which he created last month by executive order, setting out an ambitious goal for emptying Illinois prisons.

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Statehouse
12:41 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Illinois House Moves To Patch $1.6b Hole

Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois House on Tuesday voted to patch a 1.6-billion-dollar hole in the current state budget.

  The budget was supposed to get Illinois through June, but already the state's running out of money for things like court reporters and prison guards. That’s in part because Democrats passed an incomplete budget last year — not wanting to raise taxes or cut spending.

Now Democrats and Republicans — including Gov. Bruce Rauner — say they’ve found a solution. But it continues to mostly avoid that difficult choice.

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Statehouse
5:00 am
Mon March 23, 2015

Lawmaker: Give Bankruptcy A Chance

Credit flickr.com/andy_kiel

An Illinois Republican has proposed changing state law to let cities and towns declare bankruptcy.

As state government considers cutting back the money it shares with municipalities, Rep. Ron Sandack says it ought to give cities more tools to fix their own finances. Sandack says letting cities threaten bankruptcy would give them more leverage in dealing with unions.

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Instagram Edition
5:59 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

Listen to State Week - March 20, 2015

Soon-to-be-former Congressman Aaron Schock, surfing off the coast of Hawaii.
Credit Aaron Schock / Instagram

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock resigned this week amid questions about his spending of taxpayer money. When the news broke, political reporter Chris Kaergard of the Peoria Journal Star was in the Republican's Downton Abbey-inspired office, waiting for a previously scheduled interview.

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Statehouse
8:00 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Pastor Confirmed To Head State School Board, Despite Gay-Rights Objections

The Rev. James Meeks, seen in an undated file photo, has been confirmed as chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Illinois Senate on Thursday confirmed the Rev. James Meeks as chairman of the State Board of Education. It comes over the objections of a gay-rights group.

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Illinois Edition
12:45 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Covering 'Bloody Sunday' Anniversary In Selma

Brian Mackey speaks with Illinois Issues reporter Rhonda Gillespie about her trip to Selma, Alabama, for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

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Statehouse
12:34 am
Thu March 19, 2015

After Long Silence, House Moving On Minimum Wage

For the first time in years, legislation to raise the minimum wage is advancing in the Illinois House.

Raising the wage has been a hot topic for years. Illinois voters overwhelmingly supported the idea at last November's election. The Senate voted for an increase last month. And even Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says he can get behind it — if it comes after a long list of pro-business legislation.

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State of the State Blog
12:16 am
Thu March 19, 2015

LaHood, Son of Congressman, To Run 'On My Own Name'

State Sen. Darin LaHood, a Republican, says he'll seek the seat in Congress being vacated by Rep. Aaron Schock.
Credit Illinois General Assembly

The State of the State Blog looks at the effectiveness and culture of Illinois government.

The day after Congressman Aaron Schock announced his surprise resignation, politicians were moving quickly to replace him. State Sen. Darin LaHood, a Republican from Dunlap, says he’s already filed paperwork to open a federal campaign fundraising account.

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Statehouse
3:38 pm
Wed March 18, 2015

Governor: 'Don’t Want To Get Out In Front' On Budget Deal

Gov. Bruce Rauner took questions from Springfield business leaders Wednesday at a forum sponsored by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois politicians continue to be focused on the massive money shortfall for the current budget year.

Illinois is running out of money, and it’s beginning to hurt. A day-care program that helps low-income parents hold jobs has run dry, and soon Illinois might not be able to make payroll at state prisons.

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State of the State Blog
6:08 pm
Wed March 11, 2015

When Will The Illinois Supreme Court Decide Pension Case?

The Illinois Supreme Court bench in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

There's a simple rule of thumb for determining when the Illinois Supreme Court will rule on a given case, and it's that there is no rule of thumb for determining when the Illinois Supreme Court will rule on a given case.

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
5:04 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Governor Picks Sentencing Commission

Gov. Bruce Rauner at the February announcement of his sentencing commission.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday named the men and women he's asked to assess crime and punishment in Illinois. The Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform comprises 28 men and women, a significant number of whom are well known as advocates for a more rational approach to criminal justice — that is, basing sentencing decisions on what's most likely to rehabilitate an offender while also protecting the public.

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Illinois Issues - Noteworthy
12:00 am
Sun March 1, 2015

Lawsuit Says Prisoner Review Board Ignoring Risk-assessment Statute

In 2009, Illinois enacted a law requiring the Department of Corrections and the Prisoner Review Board to use a risk-assessment tool to evaluate inmates. The agencies did not meet a 2013 deadline to get it up and running, and that failure is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit. The idea behind the risk-assessment tool is to make an objective analysis about whether an inmate poses a danger to the public.

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Illinois Issues - State Of The State
12:00 am
Sun March 1, 2015

Will Rauner Get Tough On Getting Tough On Crime?

Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey writes the State of the State column for Illinois Issues magazine.
Credit mattpenning.com / WUIS/Illinois Issues

News Analysis — Gov. Bruce Rauner made a stunning declaration last month in his State of the State address.

“The conditions in our prisons are unacceptable,” Rauner said. “Inmates and corrections officers alike find themselves in an unsafe environment. It’s wrong.”

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Election 2015
9:19 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Houston Shredded: Springfield Mayor Loses Primary

Incumbent Springfield Mayor Mike Houston was running for a fourth (albeit non-consecutive) term in 2015.
Credit City of Springfield

Incumbent Springfield Mayor Mike Houston lost his bid for re-election in Tuesday's primary election. Houston had just 19 percent of the vote in the five-way race.

  With all 102 precincts reporting, Springfield Treasurer Jim Langfelder and Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo won the primary and will advance to the general election on April 7.

Ward 2 Ald. Gail Simpson and community activist Samuel Johnson trailed the field.

Here are the complete returns:

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Statehouse
6:33 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Dem Sees 'Fuzzy Pension Math' In Rauner Budget

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in the Illinois Capitol Building. He was governor-elect in this November 2014 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling for big cuts in state spending. But some of his projected savings could be a long way off.

A huge chunk of Rauner’s budget savings comes from freezing state pensions and moving workers into more modest plans.

“We cannot continue to raise taxes on all Illinoisans in order to fund the retirement benefits of a small fraction of our residents," Rauner said.

What’s unusual about Rauner’s approach is that he’s booking the $2.2 billion in savings right away, even though it likely would be challenged in court.

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Statehouse
3:48 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Rauner Proposes Deep Spending Cuts

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at his inauguration ceremony in this January 2015 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Gov. Bruce Rauner is proposing deep spending cuts across state government. The Republican presented his first budget proposal to lawmakers Wednesday.

  Illinois’ finances are ailing. That’s been a story for years, but the situation got a lot worse at the beginning of the year when a tax cut took effect.

Rauner is proposing significant cuts to everything from healthcare for the poor to universities.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
4:48 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Governor Visits State Prison — First Time In Years

Gov. Bruce Rauner is seen at his inauguration in this January 2015 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner visited a state prison Wednesday. It’s the first time a sitting governor has done that in years.

Rauner says an overhaul of Illinois’ criminal justice system a priority for his administration.

"The Department of Corrections is operating at more than 150 percent of its design capacity," Rauner says. "That is unsafe to both inmates and staff."

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Statehouse
11:53 am
Wed February 11, 2015

Rauner Convenes (Another) Task Force On Sentencing

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday signed an executive order creating a commission to look at sentencing policy in Illinois. He was flanked by officials from the criminal justice system at a news conference in the Sangamon County Building in Springfield.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced Wednesday he would convene a commission to look at criminal justice policy.

State prisons in Illinois are at 150 percent of the capacity they were built to house. They also cost taxpayers $1.3 billion a year. And many inmates, once released, go on to commit more crimes. Rauner says that’s unacceptable.

"It is a vicious and costly cycle," Rauner says. "We need to make sure we are rehabilitating inmates, so they don’t commit crimes over and over again."

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
10:02 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Explaining Rauner's Latest Union Moves

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks with Statehouse reporters in this November 2014 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is taking another shot at government employee unions. The Republican has signed an executive order prohibiting so-called "fair share" dues paid by workers who would rather not join a union. He says the alliance between unions and politicians has been a “corrupt bargain."

“There’s also a fundamental American principle of freedom of choice," Rauner says. "America is about freedom of choice and empowering individuals to control their own lives and their own future. This is allowing the employees of state government the right to decide."

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Illinois Issues - State of the State
7:30 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

State of the State Breakdown - CapitolView

Host Bernie Schoenburg (SJ-R) and guests Brian Mackey, Hannah Meisel (WILL/Illinois Public Media) and Charlie Wheeler (UIS) discuss Bruce Rauner's State of the State address.

CapitolView is a production of WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield, Network Knowledge.

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