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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A good portion of Illinois' Congressional delegation believes President Obama should have sought the authority to use military forces in Libya, but many of the same lawmakers won't support a cutoff of funding for it.
The nays took the first vote among Illinois' US House members 17 to 3, voting with the majority. Adam Kinzinger was the state's only Republican to back a largely symbolic measure that backs the President's use of military force. Urbana Republican Tim Johnson opposed it. The overall vote was 295-123.
But Johnson also voted down a separate bill that would have cut off funds for military's effort. 5 Illinois U.S. House members supported that measure, including Republican John Shimkus, Democrats Jesse Jackson Junior and Dan Lipinski. That bill failed 238-180.
The Senate has yet to vote.
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.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says the congressional district map he's signed into law is fair and protects minority voters' rights.
Quinn signed the proposal to change district lines--required every 10 years after the Census--on Friday. He says taxpayers had input at public hearings on both state legislative and congressional maps, even though the final product for the U.S. House was voted on less than 24 hours after it was publicized.
Critics point to only one district among 18 where Latinos represent the majority even though the Hispanic population in Illinois grew 32.5 percent. Illinois is losing one seat in the House in 2013 because of nationwide population shifts.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady says the new congressional district lines are an attempt to "silence'' voters. Brady says voters sent a GOP majority to Congress just last fall. He says the map is unfair to Republicans. It lumps five GOP incumbents into districts where they'd have to run against other incumbents in 2012. Brady says Quinn "lost all claims to the label 'reformer' " by approving the map and says he hopes courts will overturn it.
He says the map was released on a Friday and approved on a holiday weekend to avoid public scrutiny.
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)
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.
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.
Christopher Kennedy is stepping down as president of Chicago's Merchandise Mart.
Kennedy, son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, made the announcement Thursday.
Kennedy has been with the Mart for 25 years. He's president of MMPI, the property management firm that owns the Mart, a sprawling complex at the heart of Chicago's design industry.
Joseph P. Kennedy bought the Merchandise Mart in 1945, but the Kennedy family no longer owns the building.
Christopher Kennedy says he's looking forward to spending the summer with family and focusing on his duties as chairman of the University of Illinois board of trustees.
He plans to take on a consulting role with MMPI through March 2012.
He's being replaced by Mark Falanga, who's been with MMPI for 17 years, on July 23.
Police in the Edgar County town of Paris are investigating a possible homicide of a woman in the southeast section of town.
Paris Police were called to a home on Highland Court Thursday evening, where they found the body of a woman.
Authorities are not releasing any information about the victim or possible suspects at this time.
State Police have been called in to lead the investigation, and say there's no indication of threats or danger to the public.
The Edgar County Coroner's office and Edgar County State's Attorney's office are also taking part in the investigation.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he supports the vote by Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday to pass appropriations for construction projects --- without the extra money for social service spending that Senate Democrats tried to tack on.
The Republican Rutherford, a former state senator himself, said the vote is just one of the places where lawmakers have made progress in reining in spending this year. But he said just cutting discretionary spending will not be enough --- if the state of Illinois doesn't gain control of the $130 billion underfunding of its pension funds for state employees and teachers.
"As the state treasurer of Illinois, I went and cut 50% of my vehicle fleet," Rutherford said. When I went into office, I cut 73% of the cell phones and Blackberries. All of that adds up to money, but it's not going to fix the problem. It's the unfunded liability in our pension systems --- that we have to look to addressing what type of pension systems we have in place for the public employees."
Rutherford supported legislation (SB 512) during the spring session that would have provided a range of pension options and contribution levels for current state employees --- as a way to control costs. The bill was withdrawn by Illinois House leaders in the face of opposition from state employee unions.
Opponents questioned the claims of supporters that the measure follows constitutional language requiring the state to live up to contracts. Rutherford said he hopes that hearings scheduled for this summer will help build support for the bill in the upcoming fall session.