Brian Mackey

Statehouse reporter

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for 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.

Subscribe to Brian Mackey's State of the State podcast on WUIS' podcast page, or by copying this URL into iTunes or any other podcast app.

Ways To Connect

Illinois is now 100+ days without any agreement on or even negotiation towards a state spending plan.  One item on which there does seem to be agreement is a replacement for Illinois' retiring Auditor General.  Gatehouse Media's Doug Finke joins the panel.

Host Bernard Schoenburg (The State Journal-Register) and guests Brian Mackey (Illinois Public Radio) and Bruce Rushton (Illinois Times) discuss the consequences of the ongoing budget impasse and shutdown of state government.

Illinois government continues limping through its partial shutdown.  This week, the Illinois State Museum was shuttered, the secretary of state announced he won’t be reminding you when to renew your license plates, and at least one state facility has had the water shut off.  Could a revolt among rank-and-file legislators break the stalemate?  Brian Mackey talks about that and more with Amanda Vinicky, Jamey Dunn of Illinois Issues, and Natasha Korecki of the Politico Illinois Playbook.

Founder's Residence Hall

Two men have been arrested in connection with Sunday’s stabbing on the University of Illinois Springfield campus.

Illinois' budget situation remains much the same as it has been for months - no agreement between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders, court orders maintain much of state spending, many social services are going belly-up, and the future is uncertain.  In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is still pushing for a property tax increase in Cook County to help solve the city's own budget woes.  WBEZ's Tony Arnold joins the panel.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

There was a bit of commotion in the Illinois Capitol Thursday when an activist hijacked a committee hearing to call for the impeachment of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

labor event
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Labor unions are going on the road to make their case against Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s pro-business agenda. The latest in a series of events took place Wednesday morning in Springfield.

Illinois' governor and legislative leaders haven't talked to each other in months, and the state continues to spend money without a budget.  Just how long can this continue?  Lee Enterprises' Springfield Bureau Chief Kurt Erickson joins the panel.

Tom Davidson / Creative Commons via

The Donald's stance on immigration has kept him atop the polls, but it presents dangers for Republicans in a state with a growing Latino electorate.

This week, House Speaker Michael Madigan chastised two of his Democratic members after a failed attempt to override Governor Bruce Rauner's veto of a union bill.  Mike Riopell of the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald joins the panel this week.

Chelsea Laliberte
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois now has a law meant to address what's been called an epidemic of heroin abuse in the state. But it did not come easily.

Lawmakers spent more than a year holding hearings and negotiating over how best to address the state's heroin problem.

Despite House Speaker Michael Madigan's confidence that Democrats had enough votes to override Governor Bruce Rauner's veto of union contract arbitration legislation, he was one vote short.  The Governor and legislative leaders apparently haven't met in weeks and Illinois is no closer to any kind of agreement on a budget.  Meanwhile, in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is talking about raising property taxes.  Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz joins the panel.

Michael Madigan
Brian Mackey / WUIS

You might think that with the state of Illinois’ finances in flames, the top legislative leaders would be in constant meetings with the governor. You might think they were working around the clock to hammer out a compromise. You might think that, but you would be wrong.

Illinois House floor
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Gov.Bruce Rauner declared victory Wednesday in a key battle against government labor unions and the Democratic Party.

AFSCME and other state employee unions have had a rough time in contract negotiations with the Rauner administration. So they backed legislation that would let an arbitrator decide the contract if the union and governor couldn't come to an agreement.

The governor vetoed that legislation, and Democrats in the House tried — and failed — to override him.

Rep. Lou Lang
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois House has overruled Governor Bruce Rauner over how to address heroin addiction in the state.

Lawmakers spent more than a year working on a big anti-heroin initiative. It passed with both Democratic and Republican support, but Rauner vetoed a provision to expand treatment for low-income addicts.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin was among the bipartisan group of lawmakers who voted to overrule the governor's changes.

Dru! /

Former Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon has written a paper on what's often regarded as one of the least important offices in Illinois politics. "A Warm Bucket of What? Assessing the Role of Lieutenant Governor in Illinois" was published by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

A government labor union says it's “positive” the Illinois House will side with it over Gov. Bruce Rauner. A key vote on on whether to override Rauner's veto of a union-backed bill is expected Wednesday.

This week, debate over whether Illinois municipalities should have the option to declare bankruptcy, mandatory state spending continues despite no agreement on a budget, and some odd numbers from this year's state fair.  The Chicago Tribune's Monique Garcia joins the panel.

William Brandt and Brad Erens
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois legislators are considering whether local governments should be allowed to declare bankruptcy. Members of the Illinois House heard from dueling experts Tuesday.

It’s rare for cities and towns to declare what’s known as a Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

William Brandt, a bankruptcy consultant, says when it does happen, it's really just an “abrogation of political will” by elected officials.

Democrat Day 2015
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois Democrats say they're in an "epic" struggle with the state's new Republican governor. The party met in Springfield Thursday for its annual fundraising breakfast and State Fair rally.

The afternoon rally began with a tongue-in-cheek thank-you to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"Why am I here to thank Bruce Rauner?" asked state Rep. Lou Lang, from Skokie. "Look around you — the Democratic Party has never been as energized or as organized as it is right now."

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois Senate on Wednesday rebuked Governor Bruce Rauner in his labor negotiations with the state's biggest government-employee union.

After months of negotiations have failed to reach an agreement, unions want legislation that would let an arbitrator resolve intractable disputes.

Rauner vetoed it, saying it would tie his hands. He also promised not to lock workers out.

But Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, says the real fear is that Rauner will demand workers accept "completely unreasonable" terms.

Randy Dunn
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Among the casualties of the Illinois budget impasse are grants that help low-income students pay for college. On Wednesday, Democrats in the state Senate voted to address that.

Thousands of students take advantage of the so-called MAP grants to attend everything from community colleges to the U. of I.

Randy Dunn, the president of Southern Illinois University, says two-thirds of students at the Carbondale campus get help from the program.

"The average award for our students is significant," Dunn told a Senate committee. "This is not something that's chicken feed."

State of the Union 2015
Bill Ingalls / NASA (

A pair of economists have put one of the central claims of Obamacare opponents to the test: Is Obamacare a job-killer? We hear the answer in the latest episode of the State of the State podcast.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Governor Bruce Rauner officially opened the Illinois State Fair Friday morning. But there is still no state budget in place, and Rauner would not say how Illinois is paying for the fair.

There were all the trappings of the usual fair grand opening: politicians, a Lincoln impersonator, a ribbon cutting.

But an impasse between Rauner, a Republican, and Democratic majorities in the legislature means Illinois has no legal authority to pay for the fair. Rauner, however, refused to answer questions about that — or anything else.

Rocky Wirtz and the Stanley Cup at the Illinois State Fair
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The owner of the Chicago Blackhawks was in Springfield Friday for the ribbon cutting that opens the Illinois State Fair. But he's refusing to talk about the investigation into one of the team’s star players.

Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz was the at fairgrounds’ main gate to present the Stanley Cup.

He spoke briefly at the podium, thanking officials for inviting him, but later would not say much about the ongoing rape investigation into star player Patrick Kane.

Despite having no budget or actual spending authority in place, most state spending is going ahead anyway.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel this week.

Hall of Governors
Brian Mackey / WUIS

This summer, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been back in the news. Years after he was convicted on corruption charges and began serving a 14-year sentence in prison, a panel of federal appellate judges threw out some of the convictions against him. Blagojevich has asked the full appellate court to hear his case in the hopes they'll vacate his entire conviction.

Five weeks into the new fiscal year, and Illinois still has no spending plan in place.  While many state functions continue to shuffle along, many services and businesses are folding.   And there seems to be no end in sight.  Chris Mooney, Director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, joins the panel.

Food-a-rama at the Illinois State Fairgrounds
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois State Fair will go on next week. That’s even though the budget stalemate has left officials without the means to fully pay for it.

If you go by the book, state government executives aren’t supposed to spend money unless the legislature specifically authorizes it. But the standoff between the Republican governor and Democratic legislative leaders has meant there is no budget.

Nevertheless, state fair leaders say they’ll find a way to make sure the show goes on.

Philip Nelson
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois officials say the threat of bird flu required limits on poultry at this year’s Illinois State Fair.

This strain of avian influenza entered the U.S. last December. So far it’s infected flocks in all the states surrounding Illinois.

State Department of Agriculture Director Philip Nelson says it’s resulted in 48 million birds either dying or being killed. Because of that, he says bird exhibitions at the state fair will be limited to Illinois birds.

“We’re doing it as a precaution, for the most part just to protect our poultry industry in this state," he says.