Illinois

Six-Year Highway Bill Stalls In U.S. Senate

Jul 29, 2015
KWMU

Efforts by the Senate to pass a six-year highway bill have stalled.  Instead, the House is scheduled to vote today on another short-term extension and then leave town for its five-week August Break.

If approved, it will be the 34th short-term extension since 2009, but Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt says it will likely be the last, for years to come. He says both the House and Senate are committed to using this extension to work out details for a five or six year highway bill.

Flickr user Daniel Borman / "Money, Money, Money" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois state lawmakers are warning key figures in Chicago and Cook County governments to draft back-up plans for their underfunded pensions.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are both trying to approve changes to the retirement benefits their government workers receive because the funds are running out of money.

But that comes after the state Supreme Court called reductions in benefits to State of Illinois employees’ pensions unconstitutional.

Political Leaders Urge Rauner To Backtrack On Amtrak Cuts

Jul 29, 2015
Brian Mackey / WUIS

A group of downstate political leaders is urging Governor Bruce Rauner to backtrack on proposed cuts to Amtrak.

Members of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association held a news conference in Springfield to warn of possible cuts. Joining them was State Representative Don Moffitt, whose district includes the Amtrak line through Princeton, Galesburg and Macomb. 

Moffitt says Amtrak currently serves a lot of college students in western Illinois and across the state. He says if passenger rail service is ever going to be self-supporting, it must be on-time and provide options. 

Illinois is likely to enter August without a full-year budget for Fiscal Year 2016, which began July 1. The longer the impasse continues, the more the impact will be felt. 

Most Illinois residents may be busy with their summer and less focused on the state budget, since schools are expected to open on time. State workers also are getting paid.

Republican State Rep. Tim Butler says the ongoing fiscal fight will boil over in more ways:

WUIS

Illinois may not be done with the 2013 law reducing state employees’ pensions after all. Attorney General Lisa Madigan appears to be readying an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many thought the question of whether Illinois could save money by reducing state workers’ and retirees’ pensions was resolved in May, when the state’s Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled the answer is “no.”

Governor, Union Conflicted Over Contract

Jul 27, 2015
WUIS

Governor Bruce Rauner's administration and the state's largest public employee union remain at odds on a new contract.

The two sides appear to still be far apart. A memo from the union known as AFSCME became public last week. It laid out several demands from the administration, including no pay increases and cuts to worker's benefits. The memo theorized the Governor was pushing for a strike or a lockout, which Rauner's camp has refuted.

Tim Butler is a Republican State Representative from Springfield, whose district includes a lot of state employees. 

Illinois Prisons Still Overcrowded Despite Prisoner Decrease

Jul 27, 2015
Flickr user miss_millions / " Prison cells" (CC v 2.0)

New state data show that the number of people incarcerated in Illinois prisons has fallen in recent years but facilities still remain overcrowded.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports that the most recent report on Illinois Department of Corrections facilities shows the agency held 47,483 inmates in May 2015. That's the lowest since May 2010 when the department reported 47,150 inmates behind bars.

The peak was in January 2013 with 49,321 inmates.

The state prison system's facilities are designed to house 32,000 prisoners.

WBEZ

Chicago’s archbishop says protecting the earth from climate change due to pollution is a moral obligation.

Archbishop Blase Cupich toured Old St. Mary’s School in the South Loop last week with the Environment Protection Agency’s top official. There, he talked about the need to push back on smog and other factors that are contributing to climate change.

Cupich says the church’s stance is in line with its pro-life philosophy.

ARTSALLIANCE.ORG

Illinois advocates for the arts say Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan for more budget cuts is bad policy. 

Since 2007, the budget for the Illinois Arts Council was already cut in half. Under Rauner, it would drop to $8 million.

Ra Joy heads an organization that represents hundreds of artists and cultural groups in the state. He says another cut would hurt education and tourism:

"If we're really going to be serious about making Illinois more competitive and more compassionate, we need to be serious about investment in the arts and our broader creative sector," Joy said.

'Urban Flooding' A Big Problem In Illinois

Jul 27, 2015
WUIS

Illinois communities along rivers are used to flooding. But a state report says there is an increase in so-called "urban flooding" in communities outside a flood plain.

Flooding in cities and towns across Illinois did more than $2 billion in damage over a seven year period. The report from the DNR blames outdated sewer systems and heavier rains. 

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