Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for WUIS and a dozen other public radio stations across Illinois. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He can be reached at (217) 206-6412.

Subscribe to Brian Mackey's State of the State podcast on WUIS' podcast page, or by copying this URL into iTunes or any other podcast app.

If you follow state government long enough, you start to hear the same things over and over again. That holds even across four decades.

Last week, I produced an obituary for the late Gov. Dan Walker, who died at the age of 92. In listening to several of his speeches from 1975 and '76, I was struck by the similarities to the sorts of things we hear from politicians today — particularly Gov. Bruce Rauner.

A former governor of Illinois has died. Dan Walker ran the state for one term in the 1970s. A Democrat, he focused much of his brief political career fighting members of his own party as he did the opposition Republicans.

At a time when most Democratic politicians in Illinois were cogs in a massive political machine, Dan Walker was a nobody.

Illinois officials gathered in Springfield today for the annual Holocaust memorial ceremony. As happens every year, a survivor shared her story. 

The Illinois House on Tuesday voted to patch a 1.6-billion-dollar hole in the current state budget.

  The budget was supposed to get Illinois through June, but already the state's running out of money for things like court reporters and prison guards. That’s in part because Democrats passed an incomplete budget last year — not wanting to raise taxes or cut spending.

Now Democrats and Republicans — including Gov. Bruce Rauner — say they’ve found a solution. But it continues to mostly avoid that difficult choice.

An Illinois Republican has proposed changing state law to let cities and towns declare bankruptcy.

For the first time in years, legislation to raise the minimum wage is advancing in the Illinois House. Brian Mackey has more.

Illinois politicians continue to be focused on the massive money shortfall for the current budget year.

Illinois is running out of money, and it’s beginning to hurt. A day-care program that helps low-income parents hold jobs has run dry, and soon Illinois might not be able to make payroll at state prisons.

Rachel Otwell

Governor Bruce Rauner is proposing deep spending cuts across state government. The Republican presented his first budget proposal to lawmakers Wednesday.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is taking another shot at government employee unions. The Republican has signed an executive order prohibiting so-called "fair share" dues paid by workers who would rather not join a union. He says the alliance between unions and politicians has been a “corrupt bargain."

“There’s also a fundamental American principle of freedom of choice," Rauner says. "America is about freedom of choice and empowering individuals to control their own lives and their own future. This is allowing the employees of state government the right to decide."

Brian Mackey

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner laid out an ambitious, pro-business agenda Thursday during his first State of the State address. The Republican was addressing a legislature that’s still dominated by Democrats, and the reaction was mixed.

A version of this story appears in the February 2015 edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

WUIS/Illinois Public Radio

As we welcome 2015, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect on the past year in Illinois state government and politics. Most of the action was in the campaign for governor, in which Bruce Rauner became the first Republican to win that office since the late 1990s. Here now are some of the voices that made news in 2014.

Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale: “If you’re a Democrat or an independent, there’s no action coming up on your side of the ballot on March 18. Come on over to ours and save your state.”

Illinois’ main prison for women has nearly 2,000 inmates. An outside monitor says that’s the result of poor planning when Illinois closed the prison at Dwight nearly two years ago.

The majority of Illinois female inmates are incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois.

Millions more workers would have access to private retirement accounts under a proposal approved Wednesday by the Illinois General Assembly. It would require companies with at least 25 employees, which do not already offer retirement plans, to automatically enroll workers in a new type of individual retirement account.

Even as Chicago aldermen were voting Tuesday to raise the city's minimum wage, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner issued a warning on the subject.

Rauner had a simple message for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner visited the Executive Mansion during his trip to Springfield Thursday.

Red light cameras will continue issuing tickets in Chicago and other parts of Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court had been considering a constitutional challenge to the cameras, but Thursday the court dismissed the case.

Illinois lawmakers are weighing the future of Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. At issue is whether the museum should become its own state agency instead of remaining under the control of the Historic Preservation Agency.

Governor Pat Quinn is giving up on his bid for re-election. On Wednesday afternoon, he conceded to Republican Bruce Rauner.

  Most media outlets called the election on Tuesday night. Rauner was up by five percentage points, and declared victory.

Quinn, however, told supporters he wasn’t ready to concede. Some Chicagoans waited into the early morning hours to vote.

Republican investor Bruce Rauner will be the next governor of Illinois — probably. He declared victory over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and is up by five percentage points, but the Democrat is refusing to concede.

Rauner made hundreds of millions of dollars as a private equity investor. Lately, though, he’s been investing in himself — spending $27 million of his vast fortune on a quest to become governor of Illinois.

This story first ran in the October 2014 edition of Illinois Issues magazine.

The idea of requiring police to wear body cameras has been a hot topic after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Friday, a group of Illinois lawmakers will take up the issue. 

This story first appeared as Illinois Issues' State of the State column in the October 2014 edition of the magazine.

The two leading candidates for Illinois governor met Thursday night in Peoria for the first debate of the election season. Both men stuck closely to the ideas they’ve been honing for months on the campaign trail.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, are running carefully scripted campaigns.

Quinn has a populist message: That he’s a friend of the working man, always looking out for the little guy.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican nominee Bruce Rauner met for the first formal debate of the general election season Thursday in Peoria. The panel included Illinois Public Radio/WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky and Illinois Issues Executive Editor Jamey Dunn.

Watch or listen to the full debate:

A watchdog group says whoever wins the race for governor is going to face difficult choices about Illinois’ prisons. The group Wednesday is laying out what it’s calling a “roadmap” for overhauling crime and punishment, and wants to know where the candidates stand. 

The non-partisan John Howard Association says decades of “tough on crime” policies have led Illinois to lock up 49-thousand people in a system designed to hold 32-thousand.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tuesday called on state lawmakers to reduce penalties for drug possession. 

Republicans across America have high hopes for Bruce Rauner's campaign to be the next governor of Illinois. Campaigning with him Wednesday in Springfield was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. 

It’s expected to be some time before the courts decide whether Illinois can trim retirement benefits for public school teachers, university workers, and state employees. But the uncertainty continues to affect the credit outlook of schools and community colleges across the state. Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey writes about this in the latest Illinois Issues magazine and has this report:

Governor Pat Quinn recently signed legislation that will remove all references to the GED from Illinois law. It’s part of a much broader change in the education program for people who didn’t finish high school.