Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2011

Thyssen to Expand Danville Plant, Close Another

The automotive parts company Thyssen Krupp Presta Danville, LLC, has announced an expansion, creating up to 100 new jobs in central Illinois.

The company also said Wednesday it would close its cold forge facility in Danville and relocate it to Puebla, Mexico. Thyssen officials said the 40 workers at the plant would be offered positions at its Presta manufacturing facility in Danville.

The company said it will invest nearly $40 million to increase production capacity at the Presta facility. The money will be spent on new assembly lines and machinery to be installed by December 2012.

Thyssen officials say expansion is needed because of increasing customer orders. They are looking to hire line and machine operators, equipment technicians and production support workers.

Thyssen received state tax credits and grant money.

Categories: Business, Economics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Cost of Keeping Communities Clean

Champaign, Urbana and Danville handle about 6,000 nuisance property cases a year. While most property owners fix problems when they receive notification, those who don't cost the city-and taxpayers-thousands of dollars in clean-up costs. As part of the series "Life on Route 150," CU-CitizenAccess reporter Pam Dempsey looks at how cities in east central Illinois are working to keep blight out of neighborhoods.

(Photo by Pam Dempsey)

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Categories: Business, Community, Economics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2011

Gov. Quinn Says Lawmakers Should Send Him Gambling Bill

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)

Legislation to authorize five new casinos in the state is waiting for Gov. Pat Quinn's signature, but the governor cannot sign the measure just yet.

The bill seeks to add casinos in Danville, Chicago, Rockford, Lake County and southern Cook County. Quinn has criticized the plan, calling it "top heavy." Though, he has said he could envision a casino in Chicago if it is properly done.

To buy some more negotiating time, Senate President John Cullerton is using a parliamentary procedure to hold the bill. Gambling supporters hope adjustments can be made to the legislation so that Quinn will sign it in the fall.

"He's obviously expressed concerns publicly on some of the provisions in the bill," Cullerton said on Monday. "So we're taking the time to go over the bill with the governor to make sure if there's any changes that he wants, that he can make those through a trailer bill."

During a visit to Champaign Tuesday afternoon, Quinn said lawmakers should just send him the gambling measure.

"I have 60 days to review the bill," Quinn said. "In this case they're holding it. I don't know what that's all about. I find it kind of a maneuver. I don't think that's necessarily the best way to go, but they can do what they want to. We're still going to analyze the bill from top to bottom."

The measure also seeks to add slot machines at horse racing tracks, Chicago's airports and the state fairgrounds. Supporters of the legislation say increasing the state's gambling industry would bring in $1.6 billion dollars in upfront fees and $500 million dollars or more annually.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 28, 2011

Blagojevich Likely to Lose State Pension

Convicted former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is likely to lose his $65,000 annual state pension.

Director of the General Assembly Retirement System Timothy Blair said according to state law, any elected official or public employee convicted of a felony committed on the job, is ineligible for retirement benefits.

"No other benefits would be payable," Blair said. "So that's happened several times, in most of the retirement systems. That would apply to people who are teachers, state employees, and of course members of the General Assembly Retirement System. And that's the provision that George Ryan was subject to."

Blair said employees like Ryan can get back contributions they made to their pensions. He said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office will be asked to make a recommendation on whether Blagojevich should lose his pension. Then the board will take a vote based on that opinion.

A spokeswoman for Madigan's office said the former governor must first be sentenced before the pension can be denied.

It is uncertain when he will be sentenced.

The 54-year-old Democrat could start collecting his state pension on his next birthday December tenth.

Blair said he hopes the pension board will have a ruling before that.

Blagojevich could get $15,000 a year in federal retirement for the years he served in Congress. He could start drawing his federal pension at age 62.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 28, 2011

Gov. Pat Quinn Signs Workers’ Compensation Reform

New regulations clamping down on workers' compensation abuses in Illinois have been signed into law.

The changes include a 30 percent reduction in medical payments. Other provisions include letting payments for carpal tunnel syndrome last only 28 1/2 weeks, instead of 40. New guidelines also will make it harder for intoxicated workers to win claims.

During a visit to Champaign Tuesday afternoon, Governor Pat Quinn praised the measure, saying the changes are reasonable.

"The reforms we enacted I think will help workers and maintain their right to get compensation for an injury and at the same time be fair to the employers, and not in any way take advantage of them," Quinn said.

But State Senator Shane Cultra (R-Onarga) said the workers comp legislation does not go far enough. He said it could do a better job connecting injuries that happen as a result of a job, rather than at a job.

"With causation, it's like putting a band-aid because you're still going to have claims filed that probably shouldn't be filed and attributed to workers' comp," Cultra said.

The changes to workers' compensation are expected to cut between $500 million and $700 million from the $3 billion workers' compensation system.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 27, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: The Stigma of Food Stamps

The 2008 recession has taken its toll up and down U.S. Route 150 - and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says almost every Illinois county along the 150 corridor has seen an uptick in 2010 in use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. But anti-hunger advocates say many people who have lost their jobs are NOT taking advantage of SNAP. Illinois Public Media's Dave Dickey reports as a part of the series "Life on Route 150.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 24, 2011

Home Sales in Champaign County Show a Slight Slowdown

The inventory of available houses and condos on the market in Champaign County is ample and growing. So says the head of the county's Association of Realtors - potentially good news for buyers, but he says sales are relatively slow.

May figures from the state realtors' organization shows 204 sales during the month, down 20% from May of 2010, with year-to-date sales down more than 15%.

Champaign County Association of Realtors president Max Mitchell says tax credits for first-time home buyers have come to an end, and since then buyers have been hesitant. "In 2011, with the interest rates being so favorable, it has gotten people out, but people are a little bit nervous simply because they've heard on the news that you have to have a higher credit score to qualify for a loan," Mitchell said.

Mitchell says the potential for higher required down-payments also has buyers and real estate observers worried. On the other hand, state figures suggest that home prices in Champaign County are holding their own compared to the rest of the state - the median sale price in May held nearly steady with the median price a year ago.

But Mitchell cautions that foreclosures are becoming more of a problem for the market. He says up to now, foreclosed homes have been a target for investors. "Now there are more foreclosed properties, and unfortunately, investors see that if you're going to own a foreclosed property, you aren't going to be able to resell it for a much higher amount in today's market.

Categories: Business, Economics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 24, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150:  Rural Churches Look for Ways to Survive

In rural towns throughout Central Illinois, deciding where to attend worship service today could mean giving up youth activities or choir for a smaller service, or sacrificing a local connection to seek out parishioners of a similar age in a large congregation. As part of the series, 'Life on Route 150', Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert looks at rural churches, and what some in the region are doing to survive in today's climate.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 24, 2011

Quinn Hints at State Budget Direction

A state budget plan on the Governor's desk will undergo some changes.

Governor Pat Quinn says he will put his own stamp on a spending package after lawmakers, primarily in the House, put together a bipartisan document that cut spending levels in areas like education and health care.

Quinn says those are priorities for him and hinted he will shift spending to reflect that. "It's obviously a tough budget time," Quinn said. "But that's why we have a Governor. The legislature doesn't dictate everything. We will look at their outline and make changes we think are better."

Quinn has no authority to add money to the budget, but he could rework spending lines so that money is freed up for what he wants.

Lawmakers could agree with his changes or try to override him. However, they are not set to return to the capitol until the fall. Quinn expects to act on his changes next week, before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 24, 2011

IL House-Senate Panel to Study Tax Climate for Businesses

The way Illinois taxes businesses has developed a bad reputation. A growing number of companies cite it as a hindrance. Now, though, the leaders of the state Senate and House are making an overhaul of the tax structure a priority.

Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman sent a letter to Governor Pat Quinn in March outlining how Illinois lawmakers' actions were making it harder for him to withstand the heavy courtship of other states wanting the Peoria-based equipment-maker to relocate.

The letter set off a frenzy because Caterpillar's moving would be a major loss to Illinois. Oberhelman later refined his point and says the company has no plans to leave.

Nonetheless ... the focus was drawn to Illinois' business climate. Since then, there has been a drumbeat of headlines about this year's tax hike, and about subsequent tax breaks given to corporations like Motorola and Navistar to entice them to stay, which is why the House Speaker and Senate President formed a joint committee to consider overhauling the business tax structure.

Democratic Representative John Bradley of Marion will be a co-chair. "The idea being here that we're going to try to make Illinois keep up with the times and be handling the corporate tax structure that is efficient, fair, balanced and competitive manner," Bradley said.

Hearings will be held this summer, but times and locations haven't yet been set.


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