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Rita Crundwell
6:16 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Dixon's Lesson: 'Trust, But Verify,' BGA Tells Municipalities

Rita Crundwell and her attorneys leave federal court in Rockford (May 2012)
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

It's been two years since FBI agents arrested Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell. She's in prison for stealing $53 million over the course of two decades. Since the incident, the Better Government Association has been working to educate other municipalities about how to prevent such fraud.  BGA investigator Pat McCraney  says the guiding principle should be "trust, but verify."

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Rita Crundwell
6:11 am
Thu April 17, 2014

A New Way Of Cutting Checks At Dixon City Hall

It was two years ago this week when one of the biggest cases of municipal fraud in U.S. history began to unfold. Former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell was arrested for stealing for more than $50 million from the city. Crundwell is now serving time in federal prison.

In Dixon, city officials continue to implement reforms they hope will prevent similar action in the future.

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Education
4:18 am
Thu April 17, 2014

End Of Income Tax Hike Could Mean Different Scenarios For Illinois Schools

Credit Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

New data suggests just how big a hit most school districts would take if Illinois' income tax rate rolls back as scheduled at the end of the year.

Illinois' budget could play out a lot of different ways.

But under one scenario -- the one Gov. Pat Quinn says will be the case if tax rates aren't kept at five percent -- kindergarten through high school classrooms across Illinois will get $450 million dollars less from the state.

Jessica Handy, with the "Stand for Children" advocacy group, says schools are already doing more with less.

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Gambling Expansion
4:08 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Rockford Casino Still Part Of Gambling Expansion Talks

Credit WNIJ

A group of Illinois lawmakers considered two different plans to expand gambling this week. One tracks other recent proposals to add five casinos across Illinois. The other focuses only on Chicago.

Plans in recent years have called for slot machines at horse racetracks, and five new casinos: in Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford, and Danville.

A new competing proposal would cut that to just one additional casino -- in the city of Chicago, and owned by state government.

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Rockford
9:47 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Two Weeks In: Rockford Deacon Continues Walk To Washington

Photo of Ness leaving April 1, 2014 from Rockford with her cart.
Credit Elizabeth Holmertz

Despite sore feet and colder temperatures, the Reverend Lou Ness is still walking. She's gone about 160 miles over the past two weeks. She started at Shelter Care Ministries in Rockford where she's the Executive Director.

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Illinois
5:49 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Attorneys for IL Rep. Want Comments Left Out Of Trial

Rep. Derrick Smith
Credit ilga.gov

FBI agents say an Illinois State Representative admitted wrongdoing when they arrested him.

Federal prosecutors charged State Representative Derrick Smith with taking a $7,000 bribe.

FBI agents say after they arrested him in 2012 - Smith told them he was “going crazy” about a primary challenger - and was hard up for campaign cash to pay workers.

They say he repeatedly told agents he “effed up” - and regret taking the money.

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Illinois
4:48 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Business Groups Call For More Early Education Funding

Credit flickr user / nathanmac87 (CC BY 2.0)

As Illinois navigated the economic downturn, lawmakers made lots of cuts -- including to early childhood education.  Advocates say over the years, that cut off 25,000 kids from access to preschool.

Business leaders say it's time to restore the funding, in the name of economic efficacy later on.

Brad Billings, CEO of Quincy-based Blessing Health System, says the workforce of the future will need more technical skills, and says that begins before kindergarten.

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Illinois
6:39 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Future Plans Go Off The Tracks In Genoa

The previous Amtrak map for northwest Illinois

Several northern Illinois cities are eager for the return of passenger rail service across parts of the region. But one community is still absorbing the shock of being left out of the planned route.

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Senate Bill 16
6:23 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Who Benefits When The School Funding Formula Is Re-Crunched?

Freshman State Senators Andy Manar and Steve Stadelman meet with superintendents from public schools in Winnebago and Boone counties at The Regional Superintendent's office in Loves Park.
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

School superintendents in Illinois are getting a chance to weigh in on what could be a huge change in the state’s public school funding formula. 

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Politics
8:27 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Illinois Senate Gets Behind Convention Movement

State Senator William Delgado

The Illinois Senate has joined a push for a national constitutional convention. Organizers say they want to change the way political campaigns are financed.

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