Amanda Vinicky

Read Amanda's "The Players" blog.

Amanda Vinicky has covered Illinois politics and government for WUIS and the Illinois Public Radio network since 2006.  Highlights include reporting on the historic impeachment and removal from office of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, winning a national award for her coverage of Illinois' electric rate fight as a result of deregulation, and following Illinois' delegations to the Democratic and Republican national political conventions in '08 and '12.  

Though she's full-time with WUIS now, she previously interned with the station in graduate school; she graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program in '05.  She also holds degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. 

Amanda is insatiably curious, so please reach out to her and get in touch if you notice something interesting going on at the Capitol! She can be reached at (217) 206-6019 or (773) 217-0316. If she's not in the statehouse bureau, you can usually find Amanda tweeting, dining at a local restaurant, taking a jog around Springfield or Chicago or practicing yoga. 

staterepevans33.com

Black legislators say Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner hasn’t done enough in the wake of the release of police shootings of LaQuan McDonald and other African Americans.

When asked by reporters, Gov. Rauner said he cried after watching the 2014 video of black Chicago teenager LaQuan McDonald getting shot 16 times by a city cop.

“That video — shocking, terrifying. I cried for the young man who was brutally shot," he said.

In recent days officers responding to a call killed two other black Chicagoans.

Flickr user Sean Freese / "Day 116: "Alexis"" (CC V 2.0)

It can be scary for a victim of sexual abuse to have to testify about it in court. An Illinois law taking effect in 2016 is meant to give them comfort. 

With a judge's approval, kids will be able to have a therapy dog with them when they take the witness stand.

"You don't want it to be a sideshow in the courtroom; it has to be up to the level of decorum that we expect,” Senator Scott Bennett, the law's sponsor and a former prosecutor, said.

Brian Mackey

State leaders are not discussing how Illinois can bring in more tax money. But the state's growing deficit means they'll have to get there one day. The leading group for retirees is on the offensive over one particular tax break.

Illinois is a rare state that does not tax retirement income. No politician has openly called for starting such a tax, but it's an option.

The nonpartisan Civic Federation recommends it as a way to stabilize the state's finances, especially as the number of senior citizens living in Illinois is projected to grow. 

Amanda Vinicky / Illinois Public Radio

It'll be 2016 before Illinois' top political leaders meet again, as a historic stalemate grinds on.

If it wasn't obvious before that Illinois' political impasse wasn't going to end this year, it is now. "With the holidays now and, you know, kids on vacation, and travel, we may not be able to meet in the next two weeks," Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday morning, after touring a Chicago high school.

Rauner says he expects he and the legislative leaders will next meet in early January. No date is set, but Rauner predicts it'll be around Jan. 3-5.

It'll be 2016 before Illinois' top political leaders meet again, as a historic stalemate grinds on. 

Brian Mackey

Illinois has more individual units of government than any other state. A report approved Thursday by a gubernatorial task force says that ought to change.

Recommendations in the report include:

Brian Mackey/WUIS

The finishing touches are going on a plan to streamline local government costs.

One of Gov. Bruce Rauner's controversial ideas is to give local governments the option to discontinue collective bargaining. That's something state law requires now.

The task force chaired by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti has embraced the idea.

By the end of this year, Sanguinetti says the group will have a report published, with that and other recommendations for finding mandates that can be done away with, room for government consolidation, and cutting costs.

Flickr user Pictures of Money / "Money" (CC BY 2.0)

Little changed about Illinois pensions since the state's high court declared lawmakers' last attempt unconstitutional. But the state's leaders signaled they may be ready to talk about trying again.

“No one wants to talk about it, but we have to.” House GOP Leader Jim Durkin said last week while leaving a private meeting with the governor and other legislative leaders, where Durkin says they had a healthy discussion about pensions. “Unfunded liability continues to grow. We can't lose sight of that. We can get there at some point.”

Flickr user Pictures of Money / "Money" (CC BY 2.0)

The long-term pension debt in Illinois rose to $111 billion. That’s $6 billion higher than last year.

The state will have to contribute roughly $375 million more next year toward the retirement systems. That's money that could otherwise go to schools or government services.

Dan Long heads the state economic forecasting agency which produces the calculations. He says much of the burden stems from lawmakers' past decisions to skip paying the employers' share of pensions.

A year ago, Illinois' income tax rate fell by 25-percent. The top Democrat in the Illinois House is suggesting it go back up, according to news headlines...but that's not what he meant to convey.

Following a rare speech at the City Club of Chicago, longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan was asked this question about the state budget:

"How high do you think taxes need to go?"

Madigan tried to avoid getting specific, saying at first:

"Alright, let me avoid creating a headline for tomorrow's newspaper..." This drew a laugh from the audience.

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