Illinois Public Media News
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.
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.
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.
The small village of Philo in east central Illinois has a new water tower.
The village on Monday replaced a 50,000-gallon water tank thought to date back to the late 1800s with a new 250,000-gallon water tower. The older tank was wooden but was replaced by a steel tank in the 1920s or 1930s.
The company Aqua Illinois now runs the village's water system. Company vice president Tom Bruns says the new tower will be safer for the community because it can pump water for six hours if there was a fire, instead of only 45 minutes.
Philo is about 13 miles from downtown Champaign in Champaign County. Aqua Illinois serves residents in seven Illinois counties.
Better traffic flow, new streetscape designs and a more pedestrian friendly setting are part of a long-range plan for University Avenue in Champaign-Urbana. The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission held a public meeting on the project last (Tuesday) night in downtown Champaign.
Between now and 2035, the project aims to transform University Avenue from downtown Champaign to the Four-Corners-Cunningham. Part of the corridor lies within the county board district of Champaign Democrat Alan Kurtz, who says the plan is sorely needed.
"The corridor itself is getting old"m says Kurtz.. "It hasn't been revamped, only in certain areas. And I think a long range plan working in this way to run the corridor both through Champaign and Urbana and to renew both ends right through the cities are very important to this mistake."
Kurtz says one remaining question is the cost of the project. Eric Halvorsen of the Regional Planning Commission says they'll be working on the cost estimates --- and strategies for paying the cost --- over the next few months.
Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow says an Urbana man found guilty of shooting a Champaign woman and dumping her body on the side of an interstate in Will County has been sentenced to 85 years in prison.
Officials say 24-year-old Delon Scott was sentenced to 60 years for murder and another 25 years for using a firearm in the death of Champaign resident Cassondra Cawthon. Glasgow says Scott must serve the whole sentence.
Scott allegedly shot Cawthon three times on October 8, 2007, while he was a passenger in the car she was driving. The car veered off the interstate near Peotone, but did not crash.
Glasgow says Scott dumped the body and ran into a nearby field to get rid of his gun. He says police had arrived when Scott returned.
The drive to come up with a state budget broke down completely Tuesday night, meaning Illinois will begin a new fiscal year without any plan for paying its employees or delivering government services.
Government won't shut down without a budget in place, but the situation creates uncertainty for anyone who depends on state money: government workers, road crews, community agencies caring for the sick and needy, and more.
The Illinois Legislature adjourned Tuesday night without any firm plans to return or even for the governor and legislative leaders to resume negotiations.
Earlier on Tuesday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn promised a veto if lawmakers send him a budget that fails to balance and slashes key services.
In a hastily arranged speech to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate, Quinn urged lawmakers to put aside their political concerns and do whatever is necessary to produce a sound budget.
The Democratic governor said he is prepared to stay in Springfield all summer to get results.
Quinn wants to raise taxes to close the largest budget deficit in Illinois history. But many lawmakers oppose that idea.
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 in Indianapolis, about an hour after the Indiana 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 Indiana 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 Indiana state government from shutting down.
Here's a look at some features of the budget bill passed by the Indiana General Assembly:
_ Spends about $27.8 billion over the two-year budget cycle. _ Public schools will see an average state funding increase of about 1 percent in the first year and 0.3 percent in the second year. That's less than House Democrats wanted for schools but $54 million more than Senate Republicans provided in their previous version of the budget. _ Includes "trigger'' mechanism so that if the economy improves and state revenues increase above projections, schools would get a share of the extra cash. _ Restores 1 percent cut in operating expenses for higher education made in the fiscal year that was to end on Tuesday. Uses federal stimulus dollars to essentially flat-line future higher education operating costs at 2009 levels over next two years, although Ivy Tech would receive an increase because of large spikes in enrollment. _ Includes bonding authority for numerous university building projects. _ Provides 5 percent increase in state financial aid from current levels. _ Includes no limits on charter schools as some Democrats wanted. _ Includes a pilot program for virtual charter schools, to which Democrats had objected, but allows only 200 students the first year and 500 students the second year. That's a smaller group of students than the Senate Republicans included in their previous version of a budget. _ Keeps $1 billion in reserves at the end of the budget cycle as Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels required. _ Includes a plan to help the struggling Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board by allowing the city to raise its hotel tax and possibly other taxes later if the CIB needs more financial help. _ Funds the CHOICE program for home health care services at $48 million per year. _ Includes funding for public television and state tourism promotion.
Source: Senate Republican fiscal staff.
A coalition of groups in Champaign-Urbana's minority community says the police shooting death of Toto Kaiyewu raises questions about officer procedure when several departments investigate a suspect.
The African-American medical student from Texas was killed on April 6th following a police chase that ended on Interstate 74 near Oakwood. Officers from the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, Vermilion County, and the University of Illinois fired at Kaiyewu after they say he came at them with a machete. Aaron Ammons with CU Citizens for Peace and Justice is among those who question the initial distress call by a Villa Grove police officer. He says that heightened the intensity of the police chase that preceded the shooting, and such actions haven't seen an appropriate follow-up:
"Since Mr. Kaiyewu has been analyzed and scrutinized from every angle, we believe that it is fair and impartial that each officer involved receive the same treatment,' says Ammons. "We think that is the type of accountability and transparency that is necessary to maintain the public trust in our police departments. We don't think that's unreasonable to ask," This week, a Vermilion County Coroner's jury called the shooting of Kaiyewu a justifiable homicide. An extensive report by state police reveals that he suffered from mental illness. But Tracy Parsons of Urbana says the medical records don't justify the crime, citing 'inconsistencies' in the reports from the officers interviewed.
The groups say they plan a July public viewing of the police videotape of Kaiyewu's actions on the night of his death.
A federal judge says he intends to declare a mistrial on the remaining counts in the political corruption trial of ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The jury found Blagojevich guilty of one count of lying to federal agents in a verdict read around 4:30 Tuesday afternoon. There were 23 other counts against Blagojevich and four against his brother.
US attorneys say the government plans to retry the Blagojevich case "as quickly as possible.''
WILL-AM and FM have live coverage of the verdict until 6:00 tonight.
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