Pat Quinn

flickr/Simon Cunningham

Illinois unemployment fell in August to 6.7 percent, the sixth straight monthly decrease in the state's jobless rate, according to figures released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.  

The latest figure represents a drop from 9.2 percent one year ago and marks the largest year-over-year decline since 1984. The last time the rate was lower than 6.7 was in July 2008, when it was 6.6 percent.  

There are 40,600 more jobs than one year ago, the department said.  

Quinn campaign

This story first appeared as Illinois Issues' State of the State column in the September 2014 edition of the magazine.

Amanda Vinicky

Democrats succeeded in getting a slate of Green Party candidates wiped from the November ballot. But the Libertarian Party had enough signatures to withstand a Republican challenge before the State Board of Elections. And now the Libertarians have withstood a court challenge as well.

Sometimes you can actually hear the smile in someone's voice. I didn't actually see Chad Grimm's face upon hearing the news that he'll remain on the ballot as the Libertarian nominee for governor. But, he sure sounded happy.

Courtesy of lpillinois.org

A Sangamon County judge is expected to rule today (Thursday 9/18)
on an appeal by Republican attorneys to remove a Libertarian candidate for
Illinois governor from the November ballot.
 
Sangamon County Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley heard arguments in which the GOP
attorneys questioned the validity of signatures Libertarian candidates gathered
to get on the ballot.
Political analysts say Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Chad Grimm could
draw votes that otherwise would go to Republican candidate Bruce Rauner

flickr/jmorgan

The legislature easily approved a measure in the spring that will raise taxes on some of the largest Illinois businesses.  Apparently they didn't know what they were passing.  Bill Wheelhouse spoke with Paul Merrion of Crain's Chicago Business.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' largest public employees union has made an about-face in its attitude toward Governor Pat Quinn. Over the weekend, AFSCME leaders endorsed him during a meeting in Peoria. It's a classic case of going with "the devil you know."

flickr/LizMarie_AK

Who Illinois voters choose to be their next governor could make a big difference in how Illinois funds schools, and even where students can go to get an education.

Quinn's agenda seems to leave things basically as-is; taxpayer dollars flow to public schools:

"I believe that the public system of education is the best way to go," Quinn told the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board last week.

Not that he has much personal experience in the system.

WUIS

Fifty-five workers who have been told they're being laid off by the Illinois Department of Transportation claimed in a lawsuit Friday that they're being fired to spare Gov. Pat Quinn election-campaign embarrassment over a hiring scandal.  

The Democratic governor's administration fired the so-called ``staff assistants'' last month in an IDOT shake up over a state investigation that found the agency hired 255 people over 10 years without going through proper channels to give everyone a chance to be hired.  

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, opponents in the gubernatorial race Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner traded barbs during a joint interview before the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board.  Also, a proposal to increase the number of cameras used by on-duty police.

Republicans across America have high hopes for Bruce Rauner's campaign to be the next governor of Illinois. Appearing with him Wednesday in Springfield was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  

Christie is head of the Republican Governors Association, which last week gave Rauner another $2 million. That brings its total support for the wealthy candidate to $6 million.

Christie headlined a pair of fundraisers with Rauner in Springfield, then stopped at Brickhouse, a downtown restaurant and bar, to pose for pictures with supporters.

  They no longer had to do it through campaign commercials. Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner faced one another in a joint interview before the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board Tuesday. So far, Quinn, a Democrat, and businessman Rauner, Republican's nominee, have contested one another from a distance. At this appearance, though, they were seated side-by-side.

At times, that led to heated discussions; often the candidates talked over one another.

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner outlined an education reform plan Monday that touched on teacher merit pay, overhauling
tenure and changing the state's school funding formal, but the proposal didn't contain specifics on what exactly he would change or how he would accomplish
them.
 
 The venture capitalist said his ideas would help create ``world class schools''
and he vowed to increase school funding in the first year if he wins office
without raising the income tax or property taxes. He said he wanted to change

Illinois Attorney General

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday defended her right to give legal advice to state lawmakers conducting a probe into a troubled
Chicago anti-violence program that was overseen by Gov. Pat Quinn's administration.
 
Madigan's role has been questioned by Paul Schimpf, a Republican attorney running against the three-term Democrat in the November election. His campaign
has argued that she faces a conflict of interest because a member of her staff served as co-chair of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority Board, which

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, gubernatorial candidates Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner weighed in property taxes and the minimum wage.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll ask the Illinois Department of Transportation's secretary for a new review of hiring connected to a position that's been the subject of an investigative report and federal lawsuit.
 
Last month the Office of the Executive Inspector General reported the agency
sidestepped clout-busting regulations and improperly hired 255 ``staff
assistant'' positions in the past decade. Also last month, IDOT announced it
laid off 58 people still holding that position and abolished the title.
 

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even though your property taxes pay for local services -- not state ones -- they've become an issue in Illinois' race for governor.

Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner don't agree on much, but both clearly see a winning strategy in promising lower property taxes.

Quinn earlier this year proposed offsetting a higher income tax rate by sending homeowners (not renters) a $500 property tax rebate (though his plan didn't materialize).

checkoutmyink.com

Deep and ominous voices sound the attack …sugary and optimistic voices signal support.  

As part of our series on the “dark arts” of the campaign business….we meet the people behind the voices trained to influence the democratic process.

As  Alex Keefe found, some of the most famous political ads in recent American history may have been voiced in a closet near you.

WOODEL: So, when I do voices for political campaigns, or for anybody, I do them out of my closet here in the house.

KEEFE: This is literally a closet.

flickr/Sean MacEntee

Brace yourself, citizens.  September is the unofficial start of campaign season.  You are about to be spun by dueling poll numbers, attack ads and negative messages.   To help decipher it all, we're taking you behind the scenes this week to meet the practitioners of politics' dark arts.

We begin with Reporter Alex Keefe tracking down opposition researchers - the folks whose job it is to dig up dirt on politicians:

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

While the fat lady may not yet have sung for the new law slashing pension benefits for public workers, she certainly seems to be warming up in the wings, courtesy of the Illinois Supreme Court.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, more political sparring in the Illinois gubernatorial campaigns.

WFIU/flickr

It’s expected to be some time before the courts decide whether Illinois can trim retirement benefits for public school teachers, university workers, and state employees. But the uncertainty continues to affect the credit outlook of schools and community colleges across the state.  

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Governor Pat Quinn's candidate for lieutenant governor says Republican Bruce Rauner's budget plan would mean bad news for schools in Illinois. Democrat Paul Vallas says Rauner's promises to both put more money into schools while also cutting property taxes is unfeasible.

Vallas says Rauner's plan to roll back the state's income tax to three percent would create a $4 billion hole in Illinois' education budget. Vallas says that translates to nearly 28,000 in teacher layoffs.

flickr/Chris H

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a law allowing universities and the Illinois Department of Agriculture to study industrial hemp.  

The Chicago Democrat signed the measure Tuesday creating a pilot program.  
Industrial hemp is in the same species as marijuana but has a negligible amount of marijuana's active ingredient. Hemp can be used in the production of plastics, fuel, textiles and food.  

wolfsonian.org

State parks and historic sites now have to set up an "American Made" section in their gift shops.  

Governor Pat Quinn signed  into law this week a measure that is supposed to increase the number of American and Illinois-made goods state facilities sell.    Illinois has, in recent years, put special emphasis on promoting domestic products, especially those from in-state.

Taxi by Ben Fredericson Ipad wallpaper

Gone are the days of standing outside, in the rain, hoping a taxi will pass by. Ridesharing services allow anyone with a smart-phone to download an app and get setup with a ride ... at least in the Chicago where it's available. It hasn't taken off yet elsewhere in Illinois. Even so, the General Assembly this spring passed a controversial measure that would regulate ridesharing statewide. Monday morning, Governor Pat Quinn vetoed it.  Amanda Vinicky has more on why.

Mike/anotherpintplease via Flickr Creative Commons

Rideshare services have scored a win against Chicago's taxi industry in a battle that began in the legislature and moved on to the race for Illinois governor. Gov. Pat Quinn this morning vetoed a plan that would have established statewide regulations for the on-demand driving service, that let passengers call for rides via smart phone apps.

The minimum wage and what to do about Illinois' income tax are big campaign issues in the race between Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican rival Bruce Rauner.

No surprise: these sorts of policy issues will have a big impact statewide.

Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner says not having a term limits measure on November's ballot is a temporary setback.  

He told reporters Sunday he'll ``campaign very aggressively'' on term limits in both his bid to unseat Gov. Pat Quinn and on behalf of state lawmakers who commit to term limits. A new ad released Sunday focuses on term limits.  

term limits
Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Voters will not have a chance to weigh in on legislative term limits in November.

The Illinois Supreme Court this Friday afternoon issued a brief order saying it will not hear the case.

That leaves in place the decision of two lower courts that ruled the question unconstitutional.

In a statement, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner said that "Springfield career politicians" — like his Democratic opponent, Governor Pat Quinn — won.

flickr/denniscarr

The state's top ethics investigator says the Illinois Department of Transportation improperly hired more than 250 employees in the past decade.  

Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza's  report says the practice began in 2003 but continued under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. 

IDOT

The Illinois Department of Transportation is eliminating 58
positions that are at the center of a lawsuit alleging questionable hiring
practices.
 
 Acting Secretary Erica Borggren said Thursday the move is designed to boost
``accountability and restore public trust.''
 
In addition to eliminating ``staff assistant'' positions, IDOT is creating a
board to evaluate hiring, and is continuing a freeze on hiring for positions
that can be filled based on political connections.
 

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