Illinois Public Media News
University of Illinois President Michael Hogan's $620,000 annual salary continues to vex state legislators.
During a Senate hearing, Hogan told Illinois lawmakers that a continued erosion of state support and the resulting lack of raises for the schools' employees have caused top faculty to leave. Hogan said making the U of I's salaries more competitive is a top goal. Republican Senator Chris Lauzen of Aurora questioned how Hogan can talk with school staff about raises given his salary.
"How will you possibly speak credibly about shared sacrifice with that background?" Lauzen asked.
Other Senators have also called Hogan's paycheck excessive, but Hogan said he will not apologize for it.
"This is the price of doing business at a major, top ten public university, and to stay competitive," Hogan said. "The arrangements I have are virtually no different than any other Big Ten president."
Hogan said he did not take a pay hike when he stepped down as University of Connecticut's President to sign on with the U of I last summer.
(With additional reporting from Indiana Public Broadcasting's Brandon Smith and The Associated Press)
House Minority Leader Pat Bauer returned to Indianapolis Wednesday and met with House Speaker Brian Bosma for nearly an hour, but their talks ended with no agreement on ending the week-long Statehouse standoff.
Bauer had two other House Democrats with him in the meeting, which also was attended by four other majority Republicans. While no resolution was reached at the meeting, Bauer said the Democrats are a step or two closer to returning.
"We're going to continue to try to see if they'll remove some of the anti-worker bills and really this voucher bill," Bauer said.
Most House Democrats have been staying in Urbana, Ill., since last Tuesday, when they began boycotting the House to derail labor and education bills they're against by denying the House the quorum needed to conduct business. The boycott already killed a "right-to-work'' bill that unions opposed. Bosma said he didn't really hear anything in the meeting he didn't already know. Discussions on the voucher bill included talk of compromise on capping the number of students in the program and lowering the income level to be eligible.
"Their list of issues hasn't really changed, and our response hasn't really changed," Bosma said. "Although some middle ground on a couple of the issues was at least explored."
Meanwhile, a member of the Indiana Senate says he's optimistic despite the rhetoric from the House Minority Leader following his meeting with Bosma.
Democrat State Senator Greg Taylor of Indianapolis said it is always positive when people talk face to face, but he said there will need to further room for compromise.
"I think there's going to have to be some give and take on both sides," Taylor said. "People people don't recognize these bills just because they pass the house. They still have to come over to the senate. I'm sure we'll be watching what's going on in the house as well as what we're going to do in the senate. There's still a long way to go."
Taylor was in Urbana Wednesday to check on the progress of caucus meetings among House Democrats. He said House Speaker Bosma has put himself into a position where he'll have to prove to his caucus that he's willing to talk.
But House Democrat Craig Fry of Mishawaka wasn't as optimistic, saying Bosma cannot be trusted.
"Even if he makes a deal, even if it's signed in blood, it doesn't mean anything," Fry said. "He's reneged on almost every deal he's ever made."
Fry maintains that the 30 plus Democrats will remain in Urbana as long as they need to be. He said it is necessary, given the Republican's radical agenda. The Democratic Party is paying for hotel rooms, but food and other expenses are out of their own pocket.
The leader of the boycotting Indiana House Democrats and the Republican House Speaker are talking in a meeting that may signal improving relations surrounding a weeklong Statehouse standoff.
House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer drove from Illinois to Indianapolis to meet with House Speaker Brian Bosma in Bosma's Statehouse office Wednesday. Most House Democrats have been staying in Urbana, Ill., since last Tuesday when they began boycotting the House to derail labor and education bills they oppose by denying the House the quorum it needs to conduct business.
The meeting is a step toward a possible resolution. But it's unclear exactly what might end the impasse. Bauer says he wants to negotiate, but Bosma says he won't cut a back room deal or take GOP proposals off the table.
Bauer has repeatedly said he wants to negotiate on GOP-proposals that Democrats consider an assault on the middle class. And Bosma has repeatedly said he'll talk to Bauer, but won't negotiate a back room deal or agree to take GOP proposals off the table.
Republicans are already planning changes to a private school voucher bill that Democrats oppose. The bill would use taxpayer money to help parents send their children to private schools. Bosma said the bill needs to be changed to get enough support from his own caucus to pass, and Republicans will introduce an amendment limiting the number of students who can participate in the program and adding more restrictive income level requirements. Bauer said Tuesday that those changes were a good step forward.
The Democrats' boycott has already killed a "right-to-work" bill that would have prohibited union membership from being a condition of employment. Republicans say they won't try to resurrect that proposal this year. Bosma says he will not allow the boycott to kill other bills and plans to extend legislative deadlines to keep the other proposals on the House calendar alive as long as necessary.
Illinois is pushing ahead with implementing the nation's new health care law with support from its Democratic governor.
Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday started reviewing a plan to roll out the law from a council he appointed. The plan proposes new reins on health insurance companies and an online marketplace where people could shop for insurance.
Quinn calls the health care law "a vital part of economic recovery'' rather than a distraction from the urgent need for jobs. The governor's remarks came in written testimony to a congressional committee Tuesday.
Republican governors, in contrast, are worried about added costs to state budgets.
The law was enacted last March and has been lucrative for Illinois, bringing in nearly $290 million to state agencies, non-profits, nursing schools and hospitals.
Champaign County Board members have narrowly rejected a plan to extend Olympian Drive to Lincoln Avenue.
Tuesday night's 13-to-10 committee of the whole vote followed another backing the long-debated extension of Olympian itself. But opponents felt plans for the 'green route' or north-south 'S' curve connecting Lincoln to Olympian would impact too many landowners, with no guarantee the route would lure industry. Republican Alan Nudo favors further research, with those residents involved.
"I'm all for Urbana having commercial-industrial in this area, because that's what it's going to be," Nudo said. "It's in a mile and a half, and I think it's a fait accompli. But we need to take care of the residents in there, and do it right."
Nudo said a new phase of research will provide options, and enable for compromise.
Democrat Tom Betz said it is hard to disagree with those arguments and side with economic interests, but he supported the plan.
"We are creating an artery, and method by which development can take place," Betz said. "But I think it is more likely to happen as a result of this than if we do nothing. Right now, Olympian Drive kind of is a road to nowhere. The county needs some economic development. It's not just the city of Urbana."
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said she hasn't given up on the green option, and could return to the county board in two weeks. She said she wants to develop some cost estimates for an altered plan, but won't start over from scratch.
"We''ll modify what things cost, but we're not prepared to say 'we need to spend $170,000 (on a new study)," Prussing said. "What this is really - we can't find perfect. And sometimes, my philosophy is, you just gotta settle for excellent."
A study of options to the west would take 18 months. Champaign County Highway Engineer Jeff Blue said consultants can estimate the cost of some new alignments. But he said a new study should start by April, or the Olympian Drive project could risk losing the $15-million in state and federal money.
After months of controversy, the former Illinois State Police Interim Director officially has a new job. State senators on Tuesday confirmed Governor Pat Quinn's appointment of Jonathon Monken as director of the Emergency Management Agency.
Monken had served nearly two years as head of the State Police, a position Quinn selected him for despite Monken not having any background in law enforcement. He was never confirmed for that job. Monken said he tried to ignore the controversy.
"Really, what it comes down to is I tried to remove myself from that situation as much as possible and focus my attention on doing what my job was and focusing my attention on doing as well as I could for the state Police and for the state and for the governor," Monken said.
Senators overwhelmingly approved Monken for his new position. Only one voted against him. Monken touts his military experience in Iraq and Kosovo as his qualifications for the post. He says his time at the state police will serve him well in the new job.
Indiana House Minority Leader Pat Bauer said he and Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma are discussing a plan to meet Wednesday.
More than 30 Indiana House Democrats have stayed at Urbana's Comfort Suites since last Tuesday night following a legislative impasse that started over opposition to right to work legislation and bills impacting education.
Bauer acknowledged that there has been 'movement' between both parties, and he said he believes there's room for more of it.
"We don't negotiate, and that's the final deal," he said. "We have to take it to our caucuses. This is the traditional way of doing things."
Bauer said any meeting that takes place with Bosma needs to include discussion on the compromises the Democrats are seeking over a number of bills. Bauer said the House Speaker has spoken favorably over some of the amendments Democrats have offered, but is not willing to talk about every measure, like a voucher bill that would use taxpayer money to help parents send kids to private schools.
Bauer said if he does meet with Bosma, the Democratic caucus would stay in Illinois.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
The jury foreman at impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's first trial says jurors recently held a reunion to reminisce about the sometimes stressful, 2 1/2-month trial.
James Matsumoto tells the Associated Press seven jurors and five alternates met in February at a winery/restaurant in suburban Chicago.
Matsumoto says most jurors felt they did their best during 14 days of deliberations _ though some regretted they deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts. A retrial starts on April 20.
Matsumoto says one juror described shopping at Target recently when Blagojevich's wife Patti recognized her as a juror, walked over and struck up a conversation.
He says a lone holdout juror who prevented conviction on several serious charges helped organize the union but, at the last minute, wasn't able to attend.
(With additional reporting from the Associated Press)
Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis is leaving his job immediately and won't stay on for two more months as Mayor Richard Daley had asked him to do.
Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale confirmed the move Tuesday and says former Superintendent Terry Hillard will take over in the interim.
The embattled Weis is a former FBI agent who was hired by Daley three years ago. He's known for months that none of the major mayoral candidates, including Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, planned to extend his contract.
Daley on Monday told reporters he hoped Weis would stay until Daley's term ends in May. But Weis, whose 3-year contract ends Tuesday, decided to leave immediately after he was not given a written contract extension.
When it came to replacing Weis, Daley turned to former Superintendent Terry Hillard.
Hillard was police superintendent from 1998 to 2003. He served with the police department for 35 years before retiring in 2003. He became the department's first black chief of detectives in 1995, holding that position until he was promoted to superintendent.
Hillard is currently a partner at Hillard Heintze, a private security and investigations firm. He will take a leave of absence from his company.
Daley says Hillard will serve as interim superintendent beginning Wednesday until the end of Daley's term in May.
(Photo courtesy of Illinois Public Radio)
The Flash Index of the Illinois economy reached 96.1 in February --- the first time it's broken 96 in two years. The increase from January's reading of 95.9 is small --- just one fifth of a point. And its accuracy is a little shakier than usual, due to the state income tax increase.
The Flash Index is based on an analysis of Illinois state income and sales tax revenue. With revenue from the new state tax hike beginning to come in, Fred Giertz said he can't be certain how much of the higher revenues in February were from the tax hike, and how much was from higher economic activity. Still, the University of Illinois economist said he is pretty sure the Illinois economy showed some improvement.
"Less sure than in a typical month, but relatively sure, because the changes seem to correspond with what I predicted in terms of the change in the tax revenue," Giertz said. "So it seems to be reasonable. But again, there's a bigger chance for imprecision or error this month, compared to other months."
The Flash Index February reading of 96.1 does not yet show actual growth in the Illinois economy. To do that, the Index has to break 100.
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