Michael Madigan

  House Speaker Michael Madigan wants to cut the state's corporate tax rate in half. It's an apparent about face on tax policy that's left some Republicans scratching their heads.

Madigan says his proposal aims to create a friendlier business climate in Illinois. Corporations would pay a 3.5 percent tax, down from the current 7 percent.

It's a sharp turn from three years ago when Madigan pushed to increase the corporate tax rate along with the individual income tax.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

With the new year comes the annual process of crafting a new state budget.  Money will be tight, despite a pension law that's supposed to save $160 billion dollars over the next 30 years.

Legislators who voted to cut state employees' and teachers' retirement benefits say they had no choice. Nearly a fifth of the state budget was going into Illinois' pension systems. Meaning there was less money to spend elsewhere. The pension law is supposed to ease that so-called "squeeze."

flickr/RandyvonLiski

A published report says groups with ties to the pension-reform law adopted last month have contributed close to $3 million to Illinois Supreme Court justices who might decide its fate.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports (http://bit.ly/1aqJQ5n ) that six of seven justices have taken money in the past 13 years from labor unions, business groups and a political committee controlled by Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.  
Retired teachers have sued to stop the pension-reform plan that cuts retiree benefits to reduce a $100 billion debt.  

Brian Mackey / WUIS

As we get ready to welcome 2014, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on some of the voices in the news this past year in Illinois state politics and government. People in the Capitol were busy with same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, and dozens of other issues. What follows are a few of the more memorable moments.

Gov. Pat Quinn: “This is no small issue. This is a choice about whether we will make the tough decisions necessary to balance our budget by reforming our public pension systems."

Amanda Vinicky

  

  A day after Office Depot announced it would stay in Florida rather than move to Illinois, the speaker of the House says Illinois needs to end its practice of offering tax incentives on a case-by-case basis.

    

The Illinois House is getting flak for adjourning earlier this month without voting on tax breaks approved by the Senate -- deals meant to lure the newly-merged Office Depot to Illinois, and to convince Archer Daniels Midland to keep its global headquarters in-state.

WBEZ

  It's been five years to the day since FBI agents arrived at then Governor Rod Blagojevich's house to arrest him on charges of corruption. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence, and for most Illinois politicians it's good riddance. Amanda Vinicky reports. 

Fresh off the General Assembly's passing a law to overhaul the state's pensions, I had the chance to catch up with House Speaker Michael Madigan:

VINICKY: "It's the five year anniversary of Blagojevich's arrest coming up ... any reaction, any ...

MADIGAN: "Yeah, we should … celebrate."

Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois legislators may have passed a pension overhaul, but unions representing teachers and public employees have vowed to sue to stop it from taking effect. If they're successful, that could force lawmakers to go back to the drawing board.

Lawmakers made preemptive efforts to fend off a legal challenge. The measure contains a statement that details the terrible condition of Illinois' finances and what lawmakers have tried to do about it -- a clear attempt to justify cutting pension benefits.

Speaker Michael Madigan
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois General Assembly approved sweeping cuts to state employee pensions Tuesday. The move comes after years of stalemate over how to address a hundred-billion dollar liability — the worst-funded pension plans of any state.

ilga.gov

While much of the attention was focused on pensions, state legislators yesterday also dealt with measures intended to get a trio of companies to call Illinois home. But they only got halfway there.

Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland is shopping for a new world headquarters. The agribusiness giant may well choose Chicago; but it wants a tax break from Illinois, like in a measure approved by the Senate.

Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois General Assembly has approved sweeping changes to pensions for state employees. Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign the legislation. It's intended to fix the worst-funded state retirement system in the country.

Illinois is roughly $100 billion short of the money it promised to pay state employees, university workers, and public school teachers.

After years of debate, lawmakers finally agreed on a solution to the problem: cutting benefits, mainly by reducing the three-percent annual increase retirees have gotten on their pensions.

Illinois' House Speaker told a bipartisan legislative committee that the state's pension systems are ``just too rich'' to be afforded in the future.  
Madigan is a Chicago Democrat and the state's longest-serving House Speaker. He says Tuesday that a $160 billion reform proposal was designed to keep long-term low-income workers in mind.

Amanda Vinicky

  The leaders of Illinois' General Assembly have reached a deal on pensions. But now they have to persuade legislators to go along with it. The House and Senate will meet in Springfield Tuesday (12/3) to debate the measure.

It's the first time the four leaders of the House and Senate have come together on a plan dealing with the state's pensions, which are the worst-funded in the nation. Details are forthcoming, but House Speaker Michael Madigan came out of a meeting in Chicago saying it will save $160 billion.

Wikimedia Commons

House Speaker Michael Madigan says the vote on a pension deal will be ``very difficult'' when lawmakers gather for a special session next week.  
Madigan spoke to reporters Wednesday after legislative leaders said they agreed on a proposal that will help solve Illinois' $100 billion pension crisis.  

Quinn: Next Week Could End Pension Gridlock

Nov 26, 2013

Gov. Pat Quinn says next week is another opportunity to tackle the state's $100 billion pension crisis.  
Legislative leaders have been negotiating on a plan, which could come up next week if there's a special session in Springfield. House Speaker Michael Madigan has told representatives to be ready for a one-day session next Tuesday. The Senate has tentatively set some days aside next week.  

However, details about the plan haven't been released publicly and legislative leaders say they're still hammering out issues.  

Springfield Diocese

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield plans a special prayer service the day same-sex marriage is to be signed into law. He says it's "scandalous" that so many Catholic politicians supported the legislation.

Gov. Pat Quinn is planning a big public ceremony to sign the same-sex marriage bill next Wednesday (Nov. 20) in Chicago.

A top aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan is telling Illinois lawmakers to be ready for a special session in Springfield in December.
 
Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes told Democrats in an email Wednesday that a ``possible'' session could begin Dec. 3. He told lawmakers to ``keep other days that week available.''  

Rahm Emanuel
cityofchicago.org

The city of Chicago had a setback in Springfield Thursday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been pushing to increase prison sentences for people convicted of gun crimes. But on the last day of the Illinois legislature's fall veto session, a group of African-American legislators used a parliamentary maneuver to block him.

Such tactics are not uncommon in politics — but this was a rare example of Illinois Democrats pulling a fast one on members of their own party.

The problem of violence that plagues parts of Chicago is national news.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says he's prepared to pass a ``meaningful'' pension reform bill, and he hopes it will happen before the end of the year.  

The Chicago Democrat says legislative leaders are waiting for actuaries to crunch numbers on some proposals they're considering. Once they have the information he hopes lawmakers can return to Springfield and approve a bill.  

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, an overview of the Fall Veto Session so far, the possibility of tax breaks for Archer Daniels Midland, and the dustup between House Speaker Madigan and the Better Government Association.

Afscme31.org

Henry Bayer is the Executive Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.  The role puts the union leader in the middle of several battles over benefits and working conditions.  That includes the current dispute involving public pensions.

Ill. Supreme Court Will Hear Lawmaker Pay Dispute

Oct 16, 2013

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear Gov. Pat Quinn's appeal of a ruling that his veto of money for lawmaker pay was unconstitutional.
The court issued its one-page order Wednesday without additional comment. A hearing date has not been set.  Quinn vetoed money for lawmakers' salaries in July because he said they didn't deserve to get paid until they address Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.  

State Defends Hiring After Madigan Referral

Oct 16, 2013

Gov. Pat Quinn's administration says there should be no doubt about the qualifications of a former Metra transit employee hired by the state after a referral by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.  
Central Management Services spokesman Mike Claffey  says Patrick Ward worked for 25 years in Chicago's personnel department and has a master's degree with an emphasis in labor relations.  

Cullerton Backs Possible Pension Compromise

Oct 3, 2013
ilga.gov

The president of the Illinois Senate says he's backing a compromise pension reform plan that could save $138 billion by 2043.  
Chicago Democrat John Cullerton tells The (Springfield) State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/1btBYG2 ) that he's working to build support for the still-unfinished proposal being developed by a pension reform committee. Cullerton hopes lawmakers can begin to act on the plan during the upcoming Oct. 22 veto session.  

Gov. Pat Quinn has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to hear his appeal of a ruling that his veto of money for lawmaker salaries was unconstitutional.  
Attorneys for Quinn filed a motion with the court Wednesday. They say the case deserves an ``expeditious and conclusive'' ruling by the state's highest court.  
Quinn vetoed money for paychecks in July because he was angry legislators hadn't addressed Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.  
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sued, saying his action was unconstitutional.  

Judge: Gov. Quinn Must Pay Lawmakers

Sep 26, 2013
Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

A Cook County judge has ruled that Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to halt lawmaker pay over the pension crisis is unconstitutional and has ordered Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to pay them immediately.

Judge Neil Cohen made the ruling Thursday.

He says the state Constitution makes it clear that lawmakers' pay can't be changed while serving they're serving their terms.

Quinn used his line-item veto to cut money for legislators' salaries from the state budget because they hadn't fixed Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
Brian Mackey/WUIS

It is approaching four months since the Illinois General Assembly adjourned its spring session. Lawmakers have missed two paychecks since the governor decided to punish them for not passing a pension overhaul. And a special committee has been negotiating over how to solve the pension problem for more than 12 weeks. Amanda Vinicky checks in with members of that committee for a progress report.
 

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Many of Illinois' top Democrats met in Springfield Sunday to pick a slate of statewide candidates. Although several politicians had considered challenging Gov. Pat Quinn in next year's primary, they all backed off by the time of Sunday's meeting.

From the tone at Sunday's meeting, you'd never know a week before, Quinn was facing a tough primary fight. But then Bill Daley dropped out.

You'd also never know Quinn has spent months berating state lawmakers over guns and pensions.

You'd never know it because Quinn was unanimously endorsed for re-election.

Judge Delays Decision On Lawmaker Paycheck Dispute

Sep 20, 2013

A Cook County Circuit Court judge says he will rule next month on a lawsuit challenging Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to halt lawmaker pay until they address Illinois' pension crisis.  
Judge Neil Cohen said Wednesday he would issue his decision by Sept. 26. But on Friday, Cohen said he'll rule no later than Oct. 3.  
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sued Quinn after the governor used his line-item veto to cut money for legislator salaries from the state budget. The legislative leaders say Quinn's action is unconstitutional.  

Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois' leading Democrats will meet in Springfield on Sunday. They're supposed to decide endorse candidates for next year's primary election ... even though there are no longer any competitive races.

Democrats have rarely slated candidates in recent years.

But this time - with incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn facing a primary challenge from former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley - the state party was going to consider picking a favorite.

Not anymore. Daley's no longer in the running. He dropped out. Leaving Quinn without a serious challenge.

Ruling On Lawmaker's Paychecks Expected Next Week

Sep 18, 2013
flickr/longitudelatitude

A Cook County Circuit Court judge says he will rule next week on a lawsuit over Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to halt lawmakers' pay. Judge Neil Cohen held oral arguments Wednesday. He said he'll issue his
decision by Sept. 26.
 
Quinn used his line-item veto to cut money for legislators' salaries from the
state budget because they hadn't fixed Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension
crisis.
 
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sued, saying
Quinn's actions were unconstitutional. They asked Cohen to order Comptroller

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