Michael Madigan

Amanda Vinicky

Even as states like Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin are known as political battlegrounds and bellwethers, Illinois has the reputation for being a solid "blue" state. Illinois sends double as many Democrats to Washington as it does Congressional Republicans. The state legislature tips heavily in favor of Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities. And it has been more than a decade since a Republican last sat in Illinois' governor's seat.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General is criticizing incumbent Lisa Madigan for defending the state's pension overhaul law, which he thinks is unconstitutional.

A clause in the state's constitution says that once earned, pension benefits shall not be diminished.

The pension law, passed last year, law reduces cost of living benefits paid out to state employees and public school teachers. That, and other changes, haven't actually taken effect yet; a lawsuit challenging the law is ongoing.

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

More details are emerging on the Illinois Inspector General's probe into political hiring at Metra.  Also, a call for further investigation into Governor Quinn's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.

Courtesy of Quinn For Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, disagree about plenty -- everything from gun rights and restrictions, to what Illinois' income tax should be. But with Friday's ruling by a Cook County judge knocking a term limits initiative off the ballot, the candidates have something in common.

Though there has been a lot of turnover in the General Assembly in recent years, some politicians have been serving in Springfield for decades.

Chief among them House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has been a state representative since 1971.

Michael Madigan
Brian Mackey/WUIS

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.


Any change in oversight for the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will have to wait.   Legislation that would have taken the facility away from the authority of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has stalled in the Illinois Senate.  

Rikeesha Phelon, a spokesperson for the Senate President, says the measure won't be called this spring.  This decision comes after calls for more study.  The plan could be revived in the fall session, following the election later this year.

John Cullerton
Illinois Senate

  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.

wikimedia commons

The Illinois Legislature is moving forward with a scaled-back budget lawmakers say will lead to layoffs and further delays in paying the state's bills.
The House is expected to vote Tuesday on the approximately $35 billion spending
Lawmakers drafted the plan after House Speaker Michael Madigan announced his
chamber had given up on extending a temporary income tax increase. That will
result in a roughly $1.8 billion revenue drop next year.
Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski says the new budget plan ensures education


Illinois House Democrats have given up on extending a temporary income tax increase and have begun working on a scaled-back state spending plan.
Speaker Michael Madigan said Monday that House working groups would begin work
on a ``middle-of-the-road'' budget that's in line with a revenue estimate of about $34 billion.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn wants to make permanent the income-tax increase that's set to roll back in January. It's costing the typical Illinois taxpayer about $1,100 more this year.

Brian Mackey / WUIS

  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.

House Speaker Michael Madigan wants voters to weigh in on his so-called "millionaires' tax" at the November elections.

The referendum would ask if income greater than a million dollars should be taxed an additional three percent, with the money going to schools.

Earlier this year, Madigan tried to put this before voters as a constitutional amendment, but he says there wasn't enough support in the House.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

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.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

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.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

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.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

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.

  Plans to raise the minimum wage in Illinois have struggled all spring. Instead of letting the proposal fail in the General Assembly, Democratic leaders want to put it to voters. The question on the November ballot would be non-binding.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says he wants to ask voters a simple question: "Shall the minimum wage in Illinois for adults, over age 18, be raised to $10 an hour by January first, 2015?"


How much you'll pay in state taxes next year remains an open question, even as the Illinois House Thursday approved dozens of spending bills, that rely on a permanently higher tax rate. It sets the stage for a budget battle, just weeks before legislators are set to adjourn for the summer.

The Illinois House convened at 8 o’clock Thursday morning, and spent most of a very long day on the budget. Lawmakers began with a debate on funding Illinois' public education system, giving schools a slight increase over this year.

Amanda Vinicky

  One of Illinois' main tools for attracting and retaining companies in the state would get a revamp under a plan unveiled yesterday by the Speaker of the Illinois House. It drew immediate criticism from business groups.

More than 700 companies have what are known as EDGE tax credits, given in exchange for keeping, or creating new, jobs.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says his aim in changing it is to "insure that he program is being run in a way that benefits both the recipients and the taxpayers of Illinois."

Members of the Illinois House are spending Wednesday afternoon in a series of budget hearings. The House Speaker says that's meant to lead the way to an income tax vote.

The hearings all focus on one thing: Illinois' next spending plan.

In particular, one that spends money as if Illinois' income tax rate is still 5-percent -- even though the rate is set to drop halfway through the next fiscal year.

Critics say it's illegal for the House to go forward spending at higher levels, without first voting to extend the higher tax.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  A lawsuit seeking to keep two citizen's initiatives from ever coming before voters has been filed. Although the case makes no mention of how it will affect minority voters' rights, sources say organizers took pains to reach out to ethnic groups.

Two potential constitutional changes are at issue: one limiting how long legislators can be in office, the other stripping them of the power to draw their own districts.

The suit challenging them was filed by Mike Kasper, an attorney closely aligned with House Speaker Mike Madigan; the powerful Democrat is against both plans.

Brian Mackey / WUIS

  A legislative committee Wednesday voted to authorize spending $100 million to lure Barack Obama's presidential library to Chicago ... for the second time.

Before he became President, Barack Obama served as an Illinois state senator and a U.S. senator. He worked as a community organizer in Chicago, and taught at the University of Chicago law school.

All reasons he might locate his presidential library and museum in Illinois.

But New York and Hawaii are also in the running.


The Illinois House will take the lead on whether Illinois keeps its 5 percent income tax. It's scheduled to roll back at the end of this year unless legislators take action.

It's happened in the past. The Illinois Senate will pass a controversial measure -- like a tax hike -- only for it to languish in the House.

Not this time.

Senate President John Cullerton says the Senate will vote on the tax question if and only if it first passes the House.

Host Amanda Vinicky and guests Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) and Nicole Wilson (24/7 News) discuss Gov. Pat Quinn's possible political hiring as well as Madigan's backing of the 5% income tax continuing, not enough votes for increase in minimum wage, possible death of the graduated income tax.

House Speaker Michael Madigan is elected to a 5th term as Chairman of the Illinois Democratic party and more allegations are being made that patronage plays a factor in hiring decisions at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

  Time is running out on a push for a graduated income tax income tax in Illinois and it remains to be seen whether a key legislative leader supports the plan.

Backers of the graduated tax say it's more fair than Illinois' current flat tax, because people who earn more can afford to pay more.

But enacting that requires changing the state constitution. Voters would have the final say at the ballot in November, but they won't even be asked if lawmakers don't approve it first.

 Two major Democratic initiatives are still short the votes needed to pass, at least in the House, as the General Assembly heads into the final stretch of its spring session.


How to deal with Illinois' income tax rate is arguably the biggest issue looming over Illinois politics.

The 5-percent rate is set to rollback in January, but Gov. Pat Quinn wants the higher rate extended permanently, an approach favored by the Democratic leaders of the legislature.


Illinois legislators will vote a second time on a plan to spend $100 million to help lure Barack Obama's Presidential Library and Museum to Chicago, following a controversy.

A lesson in politics: Whichever party is in charge can often use the rules to its advantage. Like last week, when the Obama library proposal passed out of a Democratic-controlled House committee with nine votes ... even though only five representatives were there. Republicans had skipped the hearing, and many say they're opposed to spending the money given Illinois' financial situation.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The man who has led the Democratic Party of Illinois for the past sixteen years will hold onto that title, but he did face a rare display of opposition.

Party leaders met in Springfield today to re-elect House Speaker Michael Madigan as their chair.

There are those who view Speaker Madigan as an icon of all that's wrong with Illinois politics.

And then there are those who seem to see him as a Democratic demigod.


House Speaker Michael Madigan pulled his plan for a so-called "millionaire tax" last week.   The plan would have raised taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, with the proceeds going to schools.  It would have required a constitutional change. 

Professor Brian Gaines has studied the idea.  He's with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.  He called Madigan's change of heart a bit surprising:

Brian Gaines' essay on the "millionaire tax" -

Speaker Michael Madigan
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois House has approved a proposal to add protections for voting rights to the Illinois Constitution.

The measure is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan himself.

In explaining why he thinks it's necessary, he recalled the federal Voting Rights Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to "modify" parts of that law.

"That modification by the Supreme Court has apparently brought on efforts in other states to enact legislation that some of us would consider to be voter suppression," Madigan says, pointing to voter ID laws.