Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 14, 2011

Illinois State Board of Education Approves Education Funding Request

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has approved a budget proposal for next year that it will send to lawmakers in Springfield.

After the General Assembly passed a massive 67-percent income tax hike, it is uncertain how Governor Pat Quinn and the legislature will respond to the request. The ISBE is asking for $709.4 million in additional state support for Fiscal Year 2012. Board of Education spokeswoman Mary Fergus said she is "cautiously optimistic" that the funding request will be approved.

Fergus explained that in formulating the proposal, the ISBE considered feedback from the public and the state's Education Funding Advisory Board, which pushed for a much larger $4 billion increase in education funding.

"We know the economic reality is not going to support that," she said.

State support for education has plunged in the last couple of years by about $450 million.

A bulk of the money requested by the ISBE would support General State Aid and mandated categoricals that have seen cuts, like transportation funding. Also included in the budget request is a $3.5 million increase for bilingual education, a $2.3 million increase to improve teacher training programs, and a $900,000 increase in the amount of funding for feasibility studies as school districts consider consolidations.

"We're not really talking about expanding a lot of programs," Fergus said. "Some of this increase will go toward a little bit of expansion, but really this is about restoring funds."

The Illinois State Board of Education will include its budget recommendation as part of the overall Fiscal Year 2012 state budget.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 14, 2011

Moment of Silence Back in Effect in Ill. Schools

An Illinois law requiring a daily moment of silence in public schools is back in effect after a 2-year hiatus.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois State Board of Education notified schools Friday that the law is back.

A federal injunction barring the moment of silence has been in place for two years.

Illinois legislators approved the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act in October 2007. The law was challenged in court by Rob Sherman, an outspoken atheist, and his daughter Dawn, a student at Buffalo Grove High School in suburban Chicago.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman overturned the law in 2009, but a federal appeals court ruled the law is constitutional because it doesn't specify prayer.

Gettleman reportedly lifted the injunction Thursday.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 14, 2011

Four GOP Lawmakers Seek to End Lame Duck Sessions

Decatur Republican Adam Brown unseated Democratic incumbent Bob Flider in the November election for the 101st Illinois House District seat. But Brown said that didn't stop Flider from voting for the state income tax hike in the lame duck session, the day before the new General Assembly --- including Brown --- was sworn in.

"He as a lame duck voted for this tax increase, this $7 billion increase on our district, when we have the fourth highest unemployment in the entire state of Illinois," Brown said. "He campaigned that he wouldn't vote for another tax increase, and these lame ducks really turned their back of the people of Illinois."

Now, Brown and three other central Illinois Republicans have filed a bill in the Illinois House that would do away with controversial lame duck legislation --- by doing away with the lame duck session.

The measure would amend the Illinois constitution to have the new General Assembly sworn in on Dec. 1, instead of in January, creating a shorter window for the old legislature to hold a lame duck session. Lawmakers could only convene such sessions to consider emergency legislation responding to natural disaster, terrorist acts, or other imminent threats to public safety and security.

The other Republicans backing the measure are Chapin Rose of Mahomet, Jason Barickman of Champaign and Bill Mitchell of Forsyth. They say their proposal would stop the passage of bills by lame duck lawmakers who do not have to answer to voters. Because their measure would change the state constitution, it would also require approval by voters.

The four Republican lawmakers note that 12 lame duck Democrats voted in favor of the income tax hike in the House, where the measure passed with no votes to spare. But Mitchell said their move to end lame duck sessions isn't just a jab at Democrats. He said it would prevent either party from passing bills that might fail once new lawmakers take their seats.

"No political party has a monopoly on integrity," Mitchell said, noting the convictions of two former governors, Republican George Ryan and Democrat Rod Blagojevich.

"What we as four members wanted to do is preclude future legislatures, whether they be Republican or Democrat, to go through the shenanigans that we went through this week," he said.

Mitchell thinks their proposal will win the support of most Republicans. But none of the four sponsors would predict its chances with Democrats. However, they say that the measure could be helped by a voter backlash against the income tax increase. They noted those Democrats that voted against the income tax hike, including ten in the Illinois House.

Because it would change the Illinois constitution, the anti-lame duck measure would ultimately need to go before the voters as a referendum. It was filed on Thursday as HJRCA 4.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 14, 2011

Broken Water Pipe Damages Ill. Capitol

Offices on at least four different floors of the Illinois Capitol building have suffered damage from a broken water pipe.

The four-inch pipe broke Thursday night and gushed water for about 40 minutes. A spokesman for the state's Capital Development Board says it's not clear what caused the problem, although construction work is taking place in that section of the historic building.

Crews were assessing the situation Friday morning.

At a minimum, the water has damaged floors, ceilings, carpet and some computers.

Damaged areas include offices for legislators, the state treasurer and reporters.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 14, 2011

Champaign Crews Have Repaired Nearly 1,000 Potholes in Just Two Weeks

Fluctuating temperatures mean more potholes in city streets.

Champaign's public works department says about 950 of them have turned up in just the last two weeks, since lower temperatures and moisture have preceded freezing conditions. Administrative Services Manager Stacy Rachel said warmer air then creates air pockets within pavement, forming potholes.

Rachel added that public works is keeping up with the higher number of potholes well, responding within two business days of public complaints. Rachel said crews use a different material for filling in potholes this time of year, a 'cold mix' that works well in frigid temperatures, but she said there is another limitation this time of year.

"The problem with this time of year as well is these are the same people and the same equipment that are needed when we have a snow event," Rachel said. "They have to stop repairing potholes and also go out and assist with snowplowing activities."

Rachel said the increase in potholes this season has a lot to do with unusually cold weather and heavy snowfall. Anyone discovering a pothole in Champaign is encouraged to call the city's operations division at 403-4770. That number is staffed from 7 a.m. to 3-30 p.m. weekdays.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 14, 2011

US Senator Kirk Reflects on Time in Congress, Ill. Income Tax Hike, Arizona Shootings

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk held a town hall meeting last night in Champaign. The Illinois Republican narrowly defeated former state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in the November election, and now has President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers spoke with Kirk in a packed room on the Parkland College campus.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

Download mp3 file
Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 13, 2011

Ill. Tax Increases: The Beginning of an Exodus, or Just Another Annoyance?

A University of Illinois economist doesn't predict a long line of businesses leaving the state because of higher income taxes, but he said Illinois remains an uncertain place for commerce and industry.

Daniel Merriman of the Illinois Institute of government and Public Affairs said neighboring states had already begun to lure away employers concerned about Illinois' uncertain deficit situation even before lawmakers passed a 67 percent hike in personal income taxes this week. Governor Pat Quinn signed the increase into law Thursday afternoon.

Merriman said the tax increase will be one more drawback, but it still won't be enough to address all the red ink in Springfield.

"A combination of tax increases, expenditure reductions and growth is necessary to eliminate it," Merriman said. "The taxes actually do help reduce the deficit. It's just that it hasn't done enough to fully eliminate it, and they're still going to have to have expenditure reductions along the way."

Merriman said lawmakers still haven't addressed structural problems either, like fixing the underfunded pension system or revamping Medicaid and workers' compensation laws. But he said employers are not as mobile as some would believe - noting that most firms are rooted in the state and serve mainly Illinois customers.

Then there is the question of the region's overall economic health. Merriman said the pressure facing manufacturers in Illinois would face them wherever they relocate.

"A lot of the concern that people have had with the kind of business loss in Illinois has been with manufacturing establishments that have been leaving the entire Midwest, and to some extent they're just leaving the country as a whole," he said. "So it's not clear that Illinois is going to be losing that much to neighboring states. It's that manufacturing just isn't as strong as it used to be.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 13, 2011

Quinn Signs Major Tax Increase into Law

If you live in Illinois, your taxes have now gone up 67 percent. Governor Pat Quinn has signed the income tax package into law.

The government will get a bigger cut of your next paycheck. Illinois' flat income tax rate is now 5 percent, up from 3 percent. Someone making 40 thousand dollars a year will now pay another 800 dollars in state taxes, not counting deductions or federal tax breaks.

It will stay that way for at least four years when the rate is scheduled to go down. The corporate rate jumps from 4.8 percent to 7 percent, with a similar reversion in four years.

Democrats passed the measure in the wee hours Wednesday morning, among the final acts of the lame duck session. The move is meant to help close a $15 billion budget deficit that threatens to cripple state government.

Governor Pat Quinn says Illinois' fiscal house was burning. "We have an emergency, a fiscal emergency," Quinn said. "Our state was careening towards bankruptcy and fiscal insolvency."

The increase is retroactive, covering all wages earned since Jan. 1 of this year.

Republican legislators are already trying to get the law repealed, and governors of other states are lining up to lure Illinois' businesses, upset that the corporate tax rate is also going up.

(Additional reporting from The Associated Press)


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - January 12, 2011

Republican Lawmakers Push for Income Tax Repeal

Democratic leaders are fresh off their victory in getting an income tax hike through both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly, but now Republicans in the state Senate are challenging the legislation by calling for its repeal.

State Senator Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) joined his fellow GOP lawmakers in voting against the tax hike, and he is now crafting legislation to repeal the tax increase. Murphy said he is confident an ample number of his colleagues will support the plan, noting that Republicans have more seats in the new legislature. He also said several of the Democratic Senators who voted against the tax hike will continue serving.

"Do I expect the Senate President to allow this bill to move, or the Speaker, or the Governor to sign it?" Murphy said. "I don't, but nobody ever got somewhere by saying I might as well not get started because it probably won't happen."

The legislation calls for a 67-percent increase in the state's income tax along with a spike in the corporate tax. Murphy said the move will cost the state jobs.

It is eliminated that Illinois' budget deficit could reach $15 billion this year. State Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), who serves as the Senate's deputy minority leader, said a tax increase is not something he would make a pledge to block in every situation, but he said in this case, lawmakers have failed to go through the budget line-by-line, and make cuts.

"The tax increase was wrong in the first place," Righter said. "I think it's going to make things worse. It's going to fuel more government spending, and it's going to lead to greater job loss and diminish economic activity."

Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign the income tax legislation, calling it a necessary step to generate revenue.

"It's important for the state government not to be a fiscal basket case, and that's what I confronted when I arrived," Quinn said. "I've said for two years, I said it in campaigns, we needed to restrain spending. We have. And we also need revenue to pay these overdue bills. And we will.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - January 12, 2011

Walker Uses Ill. Tax Increase to Bolster Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker tried to take full advantage of Illinois lawmakers passing dramatic tax increases Wednesday, saying Wisconsin would welcome any businesses from its neighboring state that care to relocate.

Absent from Walker's sales pitch was the fact that Wisconsin's top income tax rates remain higher than Illinois even under the increase.

Even so, the Republican Walker was reveling in drawing a comparison between Illinois, which has a Democratic governor, and his agenda to cut taxes.

"Years ago Wisconsin had a tourism advertising campaign targeted to Illinois with the motto, 'Escape to Wisconsin,'" Walker said in a statement. "Today we renew that call to Illinois businesses, 'Escape to Wisconsin.' You are welcome here."

Walker referenced Illinois' problem in a speech to business leaders on Tuesday, issued a statement hours after the tax increase vote on Wednesday and then called a news conference to talk about it as well.

Wisconsin lawmakers were picking up on it as well. Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, said he welcomed any chance to "kind of stick it to them" in Illinois. He said lawmakers there raising taxes played right into Walker's hands.

And while income tax rates are higher in Wisconsin, corporate income taxes in Illinois would be higher.

Wisconsin has a graduated income tax rate that goes from 4.6 percent to 7.5 percent. Illinois has a flat rate that would increase from 3 percent to 5 percent under the move passed by the Legislature to help plug a $15 billion budget hole. Lawmakers there also approved raising the state's corporate income tax rate, effectively moving it from 7 percent to 9.5 percent. Wisconsin's rate is 7.9 percent.

Walker hasn't yet proposed lowering the state's income or corporate tax rates. But he has called for eliminating taxes for companies that move to Wisconsin from Illinois or anyplace else. He also wants to cut taxes on small businesses already in the state. He argues that those moves, along with lawsuit and regulatory reforms, will make Wisconsin a more attractive place to do business.

Vos, co-chairman of the Legislature's budget committee, said he wants to change Walker's small business tax cut proposal into a $1,000 income tax credit to companies for every job created in the state. The Legislature could vote on the tax cut proposals as soon as next week.

The key is that Wisconsin is moving toward lowering taxes while Illinois is raising them, said James Buchen, a vice president at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business group.

"It just makes Wisconsin look more attractive relative to our neighbor to the south," Buchen said.

Walker has adopted the mantra that "Wisconsin is open for business" and has repeated it at nearly every turn ever since his election in November. He's pledged to add 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin by 2015.

Wisconsin faces a two-year $3 billion budget shortfall. Walker has said his budget, which will be released next month, will balance even with the business tax cuts he's already proposed.

While Walker's talking about taking jobs away from Illinois, Wisconsin's neighbor has already tried to woo Talgo Inc., a train maker that said it will move its manufacturing jobs out of Milwaukee next year because the state rejected federal funds for high-speed rail.

Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend said Illinois's tax structure would be one of many factors in determining whether the company would relocate its manufacturing there.

"Illinois is still a very strong state because of its strong supply chain and strong will to expand its rail plan," she said Wednesday. "Our analysis includes a lot of factors. (The tax situation) would not weigh in as a positive but it's difficult to say whether it's the deciding factor. It would be one more factor that gets weighed in."

She said Illinois, Washington and Florida are among the top three candidates for Talgo's new site.

Categories: Business, Economics, Government

Page 307 of 406 pages ‹ First  < 305 306 307 308 309 >  Last ›