The Illinois State Police graduated 37 state troopers today Friday, the last class the academy will graduate for a while. State police officials say they can't train more due to the state's budget.
The 37 cadets took their oath in the auditorium of the Illinois State Police Academy in Springfield — in the last graduation ceremony it'll see in a while. This class was the fifth to graduate in a year.
A new group had been scheduled to begin the 27-week training on June 15; instead the session never started.
The governor's executive mansion in Springfield is receiving much-needed repair after rainwater caused damage twice in the last two months. But the repairs are only a stopgap measure; it's all the state can afford right now.
Walk into the executive mansion in Springfield, and nothing looks awry. But climb the stairs to the third floor, where the governor's apartment lies, off-limits to tours and most events, and the damage is apparent in two historical bedrooms.
It's the last day of the fiscal year for the State of Illinois, which means the pressure is on for Gov. Pat Quinn to sign a new budget into law.
There's nothing on the governor's public schedule for today, but that doesn't mean he won't be busy making official the spending plan passed by his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly.
It makes sense that Quinn wouldn't want to hold a big ceremony drawing attention to it. He had wanted lawmakers to extend Illinois' 5-percent income tax rate, beyond its scheduled rollback halfway through the new fiscal year.
"I don't know how you can blame us or the governor for a negative bond rating," Senate President John Cullerton says. "The Republicans are the ones saying, 'Don't raise the taxes, we don't need that. Make structural changes,' whatever that means."
The credit rating agency Moody's says Illinois is at risk of undermining progress toward better finances. It says the failure to extend current income tax rates could lead to a worsening deficit.
Moody's says because lawmakers failed to stop an automatic tax cut scheduled for the end of the year, Illinois could have to increase its backlog of unpaid bills. The state already has the lowest credit rating in the nation.
Republicans say this shows Illinois needs to further reduce costs, but Democratic Senate President John Cullerton says there isn't that much left to cut.
With the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session over, lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to the Capitol until November. Two months of fierce debate over state spending and taxes culminated in a stalemate, so they passed a placeholder budget that will likely have to be revisited at the end of the year.
What they did — and more importantly, what they didn't do — will shape the political conversation heading into this fall’s general election.
This year began with Democrats outlining an ambitious, progressive agenda for Illinois.
The budget passed by the Illinois General Assembly does not rely on extending the 2011 income tax hike, as originally planned by Democratic leadership. Instead, it's based on state government borrowing from itself.
Instead of making the five percent income tax rate permanent or chopping away at government programs, lawmakers opted to fill a massive hole in state revenues by doing something called "interfund borrowing."
The General Assembly finished its legislative session shortly after midnight Saturday, approving a billion-dollar road construction program.
Democrats started the session with an ambitious agenda: raise the minimum wage, boost college assistance for low-income students, maybe even change Illinois' flat tax into a graduated one. In the end, none of that happened.
The budget being expected to be pushed through the General Assembly Friday does not count on extending the 2011 income tax hike. But Republicans say they can "see through" the Democrats' plan to revisit the income tax after the November election.
After Democratic leadership gave up on attempting to keep Illinois income tax at five percent, the House pushed through what Democrats call a "middle of the road" budget. It taps into other revenue sources and relies on delaying payments to vendors in order to keep spending relatively flat.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) says he's come to an agreement on state spending with the speaker of the Illinois House. But Cullerton is leaving the door open for an income tax hike after the November election.
Two months after Governor Pat Quinn laid out his vision for Illinois' budget, the House of Representatives has approved a state spending plan. Quinn presented two options: make 2011's temporary tax hike permanent, or make steep cuts across government. Lawmakers considered those options and chose ... neither.
Quinn has been clear about the potential consequences of letting Illinois' income tax rate drop, as it's scheduled to do at the end of the year.
The Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a spending plan for state government.
This is not an extension of Illinois' 5 percent income tax rate. It's also not the doomsday budget Gov. Pat Quinn and other Democrats warned would result without that permanently higher tax rate. Rather, it holds spending essentially flat across state government. But that doesn't mean Illinois' financial problems are solved.
Mike Ervin, of Chicago, was arrested and forcibly removed from the Capitol Monday evening when he and other advocates wanted to stage an all-night sit in. Ervin says without an extension of the state's 5 percent income tax, in-home health care could be decimated.
As the Illinois General Assembly considers a so-called "middle of the road" budget for next year, some programs could be cut or reduced to make up for the expiration of the 20-11 income-tax hike. Advocates for people with disabilities say a reduction could be catastrophic for that population.
One of the biggest parts of Illinois' budget is Medicaid, which not only provides health care to the poor, but also to those with disabilities. Those who can live independently usually elect to with the help of in-home health service.
The Illinois Legislature has adjourned until Monday. The Senate wrapped up early Friday afternoon, shortly after the House completed its work for the week. Legislators in both chambers are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Monday for the final week of the spring session.
The Illinois House overwhelmingly rejected a so-called "doomsday budget" Friday — one that does not rely on extending 2011's income tax hike. It would have imposed deep cuts across Illinois government.
It was the budget that few legislators — Democrat or Republican — actually wanted to pass. It would have slashed education and other government services.
But the budget did not pass. In fact, only five lawmakers voted for the stripped-down budget, including Rep. Fred Crespo, from Hoffman Estates.
Democrats in the Illinois House on Wednesday handed a significant defeat to Governor Pat Quinn. Fewer than half are willing to go along with his push to extend a higher income tax rate. That could mean significant cuts in state spending. Brian Mackey reports on how Democrats backed themselves into this corner, and where they go from here.
Quinn has for two months been asking lawmakers to make 2011’s temporary income tax hike permanent.
Illinois lawmakers are going back to the drawing board on a state spending plan. Although Gov. Pat Quinn and top Democrats have been pushing for an extension of a higher income tax rate, House Speaker Michael Madigan says there isn't enough support for that.
With Republicans uniformly opposed to keeping Illinois income tax rate at 5 percent -- instead of letting it drop as scheduled at the end of the year — both Quinn and Madigan have been working to get 60 Democratic members of the House on board.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, House Democrats met behind closed doors.
Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is wading deeper into the debate over whether Illinois ought to extend a higher income tax rate. He's still refusing to say how he would manage the state budget.
The Rauner campaign says it's making robo-calls to voters in seven House districts. These are key Democrats in the budget debate — most have previously taken positions against the higher tax rate.
The question of whether to extend Illinois' temporary income tax increase has dominated the spring legislative session. On Tuesday, Republicans said the question ought to be put to voters this fall.
Illinois voters will face a long list of referenda on the November ballot: on voting rights and crime victims rights, and possibly the minimum wage, term limits for lawmakers and legislative district map-making.
Gov. Pat Quinn appealed directly to Democrats in the Illinois House Monday evening. He’s struggling to win support for his plan to extend Illinois’ higher income tax rate.
The governor appeared at a closed meeting of the Illinois House Democratic caucus.
Quinn is trying to win the support of the 60 Democrats required to make Illinois’ 5 percent income-tax rate permanent — instead of letting it decline by more than a percentage point as scheduled at the end of the year. Quinn warns without the higher tax rate, there will have to be drastic cuts in state services.
Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield Monday to begin the final two weeks of the spring legislative session. The big question remains whether Democratic leaders can convince enough rank-and-file lawmakers ... to make a higher income tax rate permanent.
Although Gov. Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, and House Speaker Michael Madigan all support making the temporary 5-percent income tax rate permanent — Madigan in particular has had a hard time getting fellow House Democrats to go along.