Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 03, 2009

Banks in Danville, Clinton Among Half-Dozen Closed By Regulators

State regulators closed six Illinois banks owned by one holding company on Thursday. Banks in Danville, Clinton and four other Illinois cities have been handed over to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is arranging to have them reopen Monday under new owners.

The First National Bank of Danville became the 50th FDIC-insured bank to fail this year, and the 11th in Illinois, when it was placed in receivership yesterday by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The bank will reopen Monday as part of First Financial Bank of Terre Haute.

Regulators also closed the John Warner Bank in Clinton --- it reopens Monday as part of the State Bank of Lincoln.

Other banks scheduled to reopen under new owners are the First State Bank of Winchester, Founders Bank in Worth, Rock River Bank in Oregon and the Elizabeth State Bank.

All six banks were part of the Founders Group, based in Worth, a Chicago suburb. An FDIC news release says the banks failed because they lost too much money to bad loans, including investments in collateralized debt obligations.

Two of the Founders Group's banks, in Gilman and Peotone, are NOT affected.

The FDIC says depositors will not lose any money due to the closures, and can still access their money over the weekend by ATM or debit card, or by writing checks. The federal agency has set up toll-free numbers to call for more information about the bank closures. The number for the First National Bank of Danville is 1-800-591-2817. The number for the John Warner Bank is 1-800-837-0215. The phone numbers will be operational on Friday and Saturday from 9 AM to 6 PM, Sunday from 12 PM to 6 PM, and thereafter from 8 AM to 8 PM (all times CDT). More information is also available on the FDIC website, at www.fdic.gov.

The six Illinois banks --- plus one in Texas --- that were placed in receivership bring to 52 the number of FDIC-insured banks that have been closed this year.

Categories: Business, Economics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2009

Flash Index of Illinois Economy Drops Two Points in June

The University of Illinois' monthly gauge of economic performance has hit its lowest point since it was established 14 years ago.

But the author of the Flash Index says the current recession still hasn't reached the depths of the early 1980's economic slowdown. Economist Fred Giertz also says there are promising signs that the recession may be approaching an end, perhaps by the end of the year. Even so, Giertz says statistics before then are bound to get slightly worse.

"Some of the things that go into the Index don't turn around very rapidly," says Giertz, "in particular, employment, which has a lot to do with the individual income tax collections. So this is not a surprise. I think the only surprise would be that it went down a little bit more than might be expected."

The U of I Flash Index measures Illinois tax proceeds to evaluate the state of the economy. With any number above 100 suggesting economic growth, the June rate checked in at only 92. That's more than two points lower than May.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2009

Indiana Lawmakers, Governor Hurry Two-Year Budget into Place

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has quickly signed into law a new two-year state budget that lawmakers approved just hours before the current spending plan was to expire.

Daniels signed the bill Tuesday night in his Statehouse office about an hour after the Senate adjourned. The Republican governor says the budget has some flaws but does limit spending to preserve Indiana's reserves. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 34-16 in favor of the plan, which the Democrat-led House had passed on a 62-37 vote amid impassioned debate earlier in the day.

Lawmakers had faced a midnight deadline to pass a new budget or stopgap funding measure to prevent most of state government from shutting down.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2009

Illinois Faces New Budget Year with No Budget

Wednesday marks the start of the new state government fiscal year. But there's no budget agreement and no indication when one might happen.

The state will keep operating for at least a while... even though it has no spending authority. Lawmakers have approved a budget that includes heavy cuts to social services, which Governor Pat Quinn announced he won't sign. It all adds up to an ongoing stalemate that threatens to drag well into the summer or longer. Quinn spoke before a joint session of the House and Senate just hours before lawmakers left the Capitol. "We must not put off decisions until later in the summer or the fall or next winter... that's not what adults do," Quinn told lawmakers in the House chamber.

Quinn is still trying for an income tax increase, but so far he lacks the votes to get it passed. A gubernatorial veto would force lawmakers back to the Capitol, but there's no timetable yet for their return. The Governor says the state has a budget deficit of more than nine billion dollars, but there's even disagreement if that's an accurate amount.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2009

High-Speed Rail Line Proposed from Chicago through Champaign to St. Louis

The initial groundwork has already been laid for a high-speed rail line between Chicago and St. Louis, with trains traveling 110 miles an hour.

Now the authors of a new study of even faster trains want to include Champaign on such a route. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is advocating for 220 mile an hour trains that would connect Champaign to Chicago in 45 minutes.

Association Executive Director Rick Harnish says competitors in Asia and Europe have gained an edge on their ability to compete in a global economy. He says China's trains will cover the distance of Chicago to New York down to four hours by the year 2013:

"If you could get on a train here and be in Chicago and transfer to another train and be in New York in 5 hours, you can't do that by plane today. It does have an impact," Harnish said. "We're spending more on our infrastructure than our competitors are, we're spending more per-trip, per-person than our competitors are, and we're making fewer trips than our competitors are because it's so much more expensive to travel here than over there."

Illinois is in the running to receive 8-billion dollars in federal stimulus money to begin building initial high-speed rail lines. Meanwhile, Governor Pat Quinn is asking lawmakers to add 400-million dollars for high-speed rail in a capital construction program. Harnish estimates the state would need to find another 10-million for a market study of the faster trains.

Illinois Senate Transportation Committee Chair Martin Sandoval says Illinois is no longer looking at theories and believes the state will make the investment.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2009

Planning a High-Voltage Line with More Public Input

Ameren is planning a summer of public input as it proposes a new high-voltage electric transmission line around Champaign's western and southern outskirts.

The 138-thousand volt line would link substations in Bondville and Champaign's south side and would bring more capacity to the area around the University of Illinois campus, including the future Blue Waters petascale computer project.

Marty Hipple is supervising the planning for the line. "It provides capacity to serve that future load that's forecasted, and it provides a loop in network transmission to improve the reliability of existing transmission," Hipple said.

Doni Murphy, a planning consultant working with Ameren, says lists of "sensitivities" will be drawn up so that those planning the route of the new line can watch out for them. "Existing developments, proposed developments, whether they be residential, commercial or what have you," Murphy said. "And often times you'll see the traditional environmental considerations like wetlands, archaeological and cultural sites, protected species habitats, things of that nature."

Ameren says it will hold open houses and meetings with local officials to find three recommended routes for the line. The utility would submit those proposals this winter to the Illinois Commerce Commission, which would decide if and where the line would be built. Ameren hopes to finish it by 2014.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 18, 2009

CU Opens a Second Weekly Farmers Market

Starting Thursday, Champaign-Urbana will have two farmers markets.

The parking lot just north of Champaign Police headquarters will be the site of the North First Street Farmers Market every Thursday afternoon and early evening. Its coordinator, Wendy Langacker says it's not meant to compete with Urbana's long-running Market on the Square Saturday mornings - instead, it's meant to put fresh food within walking distance of a neighborhood where it's been hard to find in the past.

"For a lot of people in this neighborhood it might be difficult," Langacker said. "Even for people who live across the (CN) tracks, in downtown condos and apartments, it's still a ways away. So it's a nice way to bring fresh food to people in this downtown area."

Langacker says 26 vendors expect to have booths at the market, including a few merchants from the North First Street area. The farmers market will also include entertainment each week. Its 11-week run wraps up at the end of August.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 12, 2009

FutureGen Gets the Feds’ Green Flag Again

The Department of Energy has decided to move forward on a stalled futuristic coal-burning power plant in central Illinois that languished under the previous administration.

The project known as FutureGen would burn coal for power but store emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide underground. It was slated to be built in Mattoon but was canceled after a faulty cost analysis put the price of the project higher than it should have been.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a Friday morning statement that reviving FutureGen is an important step that shows the Obama Administration's commitment to carbon capture technology.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2009

Quinn, Lawmaklers Set Stage for Budget Talks

Gov. Pat Quinn is eager to build support for his proposed income tax increase, so he chided lawmakers yesterday Tuesday for not raising taxes to help fix a budget deficit of at least $11.6 billion.

Quinn didn't offer up any new cost-cutting suggestions but he said he would be willing to listen to anyone. The Democratic governor remained optimistic he could get a budget paid for by a tax increase in place by July 1 when the new fiscal year begins.

Quinn wants the income tax increase to stave off cuts he says will decimate state human services programs.

In response, Quinn is pressuring lawmakers by pledging not to sign the $28 billion statewide construction program they want until they give him a balanced budget.

Michael Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown says the House speaker would continue to meet and work cooperatively with Quinn.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 03, 2009

GM Dealers Mull Over the Company’s Future

Area General Motors dealers are looking at the automaker's bankruptcy from different perspectives.

Most dealers in east-central Illinois expect to keep selling cars despite GM's decision to cut hundreds of dealers. Bill Abbott owns a GM dealership in Monticello -- he says his company didn't receive a contract cancellation notice, and they are looking forward to being there for a long time.

Hoopeston dealership owner Dave McFadden says he's also not worried about the future of Anthem Chevrolet Buick Pontiac, and he's optimistic about what a new GM will look like.

"I'm looking forward to a new GM emerging, being more competitive with less liabilities and returning to the giant automotive manufacturer that it has been for almost a hundred years," McFadden said.

But a small Chevrolet dealer in Iroquois County may not be a part of GM's future. Still, Rust Chevrolet doesn't plan on closing anytime soon, despite receiving a letter ending its franchise agreement with GM.

Co-owner Karen Rust Walder says the family-owned operation in Cissna Park will continue offering parts and service and plans to keep selling used vehicles when their agreement with GM ends in 2010.

Walder says she knows that some dealerships plan to fight the contract termination, but as for Rust Chevrolet, she says they don't really know what their next step will be.

The Rust family has sold Chevrolet vehicles since her grandfather signed on with the car company in 1915. Walder is the only salesperson at the dealership.


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