Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 20, 2011

Danville Explores Plans to Increase Revenue

The city of Danville is exploring different opportunities to boost revenue.

On Wednesday night, the Public Safety Revenue Committee discussed a five-cent public safety tax that's expected to generate around $170,000. Committee co-chair Nancy O'Kane said that money would be used to strengthen Danville's police and fire departments.

"We're not looking to just go out there and just raise taxes to be raising taxes nor are we looking to give those police officers and those firefighter's raises," O'Kane said. "We're trying to put more officers on the street and more firefighters to protect our city."

O'Kane, who is a former Danville alderwoman, said she hopes the full council votes on the measure by December.

Meanwhile, Alderman Michael Puhr said whatever course the council takes, it will first survey the public to find out if they would support a new tax.

"You know, in these economic times we do have to watch what we do," Puhr said. "A lot of people in our community are on fixed incomes, but we still have to operate in a positive cash-flow in city government, as well."

Earlier this week, the city council narrowly voted down a measure that would have raised Danville's garbage pickup fee. Puhr said the council will likely consider a revised version of that plan. He said the Public Safety Revenue Committee is also exploring the prospect of charging extra for its public safety services in communities outside of Danville, and impounding vehicles of drivers who are caught under the influence of alcohol or in possession of marijuana.

Categories: Business, Economics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 20, 2011

U of Ill. Sports Gets $900,000 a Year in Waivers

The University of Illinois provides more than $900,000 a year in tuition waivers to cover scholarships for athletes and will continue to provide such support despite a committee's recommendation that the practice stop.

The Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/pZkqNv ) reports that the university has provided the money from its general fund since the 1970s. A campus committee recommended that the waivers be phased out over five years as the university looks for ways to save money. They will instead be reduced.

Associate Chancellor Bill Adams was a member of the committee. He says the school's sports programs would have trouble making up the money if it was eliminated.

The waivers began in the 1970s as a way to support women's sports. Among Big Ten schools, only Wisconsin has a similar arrangement.

Categories: Economics, Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 19, 2011

Unpaid Ill. Regional School Superintendent Resigns

A central Illinois regional school superintendent has announced his resignation after going without pay for 14 weeks.

Christian and Montgomery County Regional Superintendent of Schools Tom Campbell on Wednesday told the Breeze-Courier (http://bit.ly/keaUC6) in Taylorville he can't continue. Campbell blames "political decisions made by our governor" for taking "a tremendous toll" on his ability to "stay positive and focused on remaining in office."

In July, Gov. Pat Quinn cut off pay to superintendents and their assistants. He says the state can't afford to pay the salaries. Quinn wants local governments to pay the salaries, but made no arrangements before vetoing the money.

Campbell says the decisions by state leaders show "total disrespect" for those who work in regional education offices in Illinois.

Taylorville is about 25 miles southeast of Springfield.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 19, 2011

Illinois State Treasurer Shares Concerns About State Debt

Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says the state needs to come up with a budget that avoids any more debt.

Rutherford was in Champaign on Wednesday to address the local Chamber of Commerce. While Gov. Pat Quinn has supported borrowing to pay off a large backlog of bills, Rutherford said that particular proposal wouldn't improve the state's cash-flow situation. He said borrowing has saddled taxpayers with nearly $45 billion in debt.

"I understand restructuring debt," he said. "I'm open to that, but it has to be something that passes the smell test. It has to be something that a fiscally astute and responsive person will say, 'It's good, it's better, let's go.'"

Rutherford said Illinois' budget should be based on the state's actual revenue. He also said changes to worker compensation and the pension system are essential.

Rutherford added that the mass demonstrations across the country against financial greed and corruption should be a wake-up call for lawmakers.

"I think it is a signal to those that are policy making in Washington, DC and the state capitol of Springfield is they better get their act together because actions have consequences and the biggest consequence will be coming in November 2012, and that's the election," Rutherford said.

With the state having nearly five billion dollars in unpaid bills, lawmakers are expected to review the budget during the veto session that begins next week.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 19, 2011

United Auto Workers Vote ‘Yes’ to Ford Contract

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Ford union autoworkers have approved a new four-year contract that's expected to bring 2,000 jobs to the Chicago region.

At first, it didn't seem like a slam dunk deal. Many workers complained the new contract reinforced an unfair two-tier payment system with part time workers doing the same work as full-timers and getting paid substantially less. The new contract included profit-sharing in lieu of pay raises, and many living in expensive metropolitan areas like Chicago wanted a cost of living pay increase.

Chicago's union workers were so against the contract that 77 percent of the South Side assembly plant voted against it last week; 70 percent at the Chicago Heights stamping plant did the same.

But as big 'yes' votes came in over the weekend from major facilities in Michigan and Kansas City, the scales began to tip tellingly in favor of the contract. Workers in Louisville, Ky., approved the agreement Tuesday, according to a post on the Louisville local's Facebook page. That was the last large local to vote, and it ensures the agreement will go into effect.

A final tally was not immediately available from the UAW Wednesday morning.

Richard Hurd, Professor of Labor Studies at Cornell University, said he's not surprised at all in the variation between plants on the vote. He said typically in votes for or against a contract, a local union leader holds a lot of sway.

Regarding the case of the Chicago plants' rejection, he thought it could go deeper.

"It could be that there are tensions in the facility and the vote reflects things other than the workers particular view towards the terms of the agreement. There may be bad relations between the current plant manager and workers, or between supervisors and workers. So workers less happy with situation will be more likely to vote against a contract," Hurd said.

The UAW represents approximately 41,000 hourly and salaried workers across 27 Ford manufacturing and assembling facilities in the United States. Now that the vote is in, the new four-year contract will begin moving forward. According to a UAW press release, it includes adding 5,750 new UAW jobs.

"These new UAW jobs mean more than 12,000 new jobs in total with jobs previously announced by Ford," said UAW President Bob King.

Chicago's two area plants are expected to reap 2,000 new jobs out of the deal by 2015. The agreement also promises $16 billion Ford is investing in new and upgraded vehicles and retooling plants.

A signing bonus for workers comes in at $6,000 dollars, which according to Hurd, is a big figure in these days of a depressed economy.

Now that the contract is approved, local unions will continue work on bargaining on behalf of individual plant agreements.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 18, 2011

Chicago Mayor Wants to Negotiate on Casino Measure

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he hopes to find common ground with Gov. Pat Quinn on expanding casino gambling, but Quinn says he's not looking to compromise.

Emanuel and Quinn discussed the issue at separate events Tuesday. The two Democrats publicly sniped for months over gambling expansion.

Emanuel wants a casino in Chicago, and he expressed impatience with Quinn's long deliberation over a measure passed by the legislature in May.

Qunn responded by telling Emanuel to back off. On Monday, Quinn laid out a framework for expansion that gave oversight of a Chicago casino to the state Gaming Board, rather than a city casino development committee.

On Tuesday, Quinn stuck to his guns, saying the framework is what he's willing to work with. Emanuel said he's encouraged about a deal.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 17, 2011

Lawmakers Hope for Compromise on Gaming Measure

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)

Three legislators and Danville's mayor are happy to see plans for a casino in the city remain intact after a review by Gov. Pat Quinn.

But Catlin Republican House member Chad Hays said removing slot machines at racetracks from the gaming measure will keep it from passing. He said backing of the bill for many downstate House lawmakers hinged on connections between horse racing and agriculture. Revenues from the racetrack slot machines would have gone toward conservation districts and county fairs.

Hays sad there are still options, including an override of a gubernatorial veto, but he said getting the necessary votes in the Senate is a long shot.

Hays noted that Senate President John Cullerton could introduce a 'trailer bill' to try and accommodate the governor, but he said he believes that won't get the necessary backing without the so-called 'racinos.'

"Being close enough to the process, and knowing the members on the (House) floor, where they are geographically, and what their relationship is to agriculture," Hays said. "I think you would lose a significant number of votes, probably 15 or 16 at least, if the 'racinos' would not be in the bill."

Hays said Quinn also has the option of taking no action once getting the bill over a period of 60 days, too late for any action in the veto session.

Champaign Senator Mike Frerichs said it was good to see Gov. Quinn recognize that Danville made a compelling case for a casino, and put forth some suggestions of his own. But he agrees that Quinn's removal of slot machines at racetracks, will cost a number of votes from downstate lawmakers because of the slot machines' benefit to agriculture.

Frerichs called Quinn's comments a good starting point, but he said a lot of work lies ahead in order to come to a compromise.

"I believe the sponsors acknowleged there may need to be some changes in order to scale back the extent of the expansions," Frerichs said. "I think (Gov. Quinn) has scaled it back so far that the bill will have lost several supporters in the House, downstate members who feel there's probably not a lot left in for downstate in what he's proposing."

Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said he is excited that Quinn has recognized the need for a casino in his city, but he also fears the loss of the slot machines at racetracks and changes to the Chicago casino license could kill the measure. Eisenhauer said he will keep tabs on changes to the bill as legislators prepare to return to Springfield.

"I'll talk to different legislators around the state to get a feel for what resolutions for what might be offered up to find out what discussions are in fact taking place, and is there anything that we can provide that would help in those discussions," Eisenhauer said.

Eisenhauer also said he plans to visit Springfield during the fall veto session, which starts Oct. 25.

The gambling legislation passed the General Assembly in May, but Senate President John Cullerton has been holding on to the measure until Quinn gave details on what he would support.

"We will be sure to include them in the discussions going forward at the idea of trying to come up with an appropriate compromise that can pass both the general assembly and the governor's support," said John Patterson, a spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 17, 2011

Quinn OK with New Casinos, But Not Other Slot Machine Locations

(With additional Reporting by The Associated Press)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he can accept new casinos in Danville, Chicago and other cities. But he is drawing the line at allowing slot machines at racetracks, airports and other locations.

At a news conference Monday morning, the governor discussed his objections to a gambling bill (Senate Bill 744) passed by lawmakers, but not yet sent to him.

Quinn laid out a framework for gambling expansion that includes five new casinos that the legislation calls for, including Chicago, Danville, Rockford and two suburban locations. But he said he can't accept allowing slot machines racetracks, Chicago's two airports and other locations.

"I don't think anybody in Illinois wants 14 new gambling locations --- including the state fair, including our airports," Quinn told reporters. "When people get off a plane from another country or another state, the first thing they see are armed guards next to casinos? I don't think so."

Quinn also wants both suburban locations to be decided by the Illinois Gaming Board --- rejecting the Park City location named in the gambling bill for a new casino in Lake County. Quinn said cities should compete to host a new casino in the western suburbs, as well as another one in southern Cook County.

In addition, the Governor wants to change the rules for communities that don't want to host legal video gaming. Quinn said that with the expansion of gaming in other areas, communities should be able to choose or reject video gaming on an "opt-in," instead of an "opt-out" basis.

Quinn said the gaming bill passed by lawmakers has too many tax breaks and protections for casino owners, and fails to provide sufficient tax revenue for Illinois' education and infrastructure needs. He said the proposed tax structure in the bill would lower tax revenues from casinos, compared to existing tax rules.

Quinn urged lawmakers to craft a new gambling bill and not pursue the one they passed --- because he said he will veto it if it's sent to him.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 16, 2011

More ‘Occupy’ Protests in Central Illinois

Hundreds in Springfield and Peoria have joined the protest against corporate greed and economic disparities that began with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.

About 300 protesters marched in downtown Springfield on Saturday to join a global day of demonstrations. The Occupy Springfield rally was peaceful and there were no arrests. One protester, 55-year-old Joe Feiden of Petersburg, the State Journal-Register he was at the rally because corporations have too much political influence.

Another 300 people staged a march Saturday in Peoria. The Journal-Star reports the group plans to rally every Saturday and may set up a permanent occupation in a park. The mostly liberal protesters included some supporters of Texas Republican Ron Paul, a favorite of libertarians.

Another demonstration was held in downtown Champaign Saturday, where a group marched from Main Street to West Side Park.

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 14, 2011

Champaign County Board Members Offer Different Suggestions for Revenue

A couple of Champaign County Board members are offering very different suggestions to boost what's described as a healthy fund balance.

Democrat Brendan McGinty says the county has exceeded revenue projections this year by about 2-percent, and underspent as well. Meanwhile, the county has downsized through attrition and furlough days, and McGinty says he's still seeking ways to replenish a depleted fund balance, and what he calls 'bare bones' operations.

McGinty says one way would be to conduct an audit of the county's fee structure.

"A lot of people don't want to increase fees, and I understand that," he said. "But when you have not increased fees, and kept up with the cost of delivering services for 30 or 40 years, then you fall behind. And you're missing out on potential revenue that can help the health of the county and help employ the right number of people, because we're pretty trim right now."

One example is a hike in marriage license fees, which did recently go up from 20 to 30 dollars. McGinty says the few thousand dollars coming from it won't make much of an impact. The original proposal called for raising the fee to $75.

County Administrator Deb Busey told the board this week that revenue projections are actually up a bit. County Board Republican Stan James says county government is getting away from its intended purpose, like law enforcement and infrastructure.

"We're getting into a lot of programs that are sort of an outreach or an outshoot, and maybe we need to revisit those like we do with the quarter-cent safety tax," he said. "We give to youth groups. I'm not saying I'm against that, but I'm just saying that it's tax money that could be used to to pay the bills that need to be paid."

McGinty also endorses Republican Alan Nudo's suggestion of offering more private-pay rooms in the Champaign County Nursing Home. He says the county needs to work with hospitals to transfer patients needing long-term care. The state currently owes Champaign county $1-point-8 million in Medicaid reimbursements.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics

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