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.

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.

Voters will get to weigh in on whether Illinois should raise its minimum wage for adults to 10 dollars an hour. Governor Pat Quinn approved the ballot question Sunday, and as IPR'S Brian Mackey reports, he wasted no time campaigning on the issue.

The question is just advisory. Lawmakers don’t have to heed the people’s advice, but supporters of the increase say they hope it’ll pressure reluctant legislators to go along.

  The Illinois Republican Party says longtime conservative activist Jack Roeser has died. The wealthy businessman spent years on the outside, fighting the party establishment. 

A former state employee Thursday filed more allegations of political and sexual harassment against Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. He's also expanding the list of defendants to include Mitt Romney's presidential campaign organization.

Governor Pat Quinn has approved a supplemental spending bill for the budget year ending June 30th. The 1.8 billion dollar package, signed Monday, pays down some of the state’s overdue bills.

 

As Democrats in coal states rush to distance themselves from new federal regulations intended to address global warming -- Senator Dick Durbin says Illinois is in a good position among coal-producing states. 

Dick Durbin is calling for an increase in federal spending on medical research. The Illinois senator made his case Monday in Springfield, before  a group of doctors and scientists at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. IPR's Brian Mackey has more.

Durbin says federal investment in basic medical research has lagged far behind inflation. He says a decade ago, 30 percent of grant proposals were funded, while today that number is down to just 15 percent.

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A new law will automatically clear certain arrest records for juveniles when they turn 18. It’s meant to keep arrests that did not result in criminal charges from following kids into adulthood. IPR's Brian Mackey has more.

The law applies only to arrests for lesser crimes, mostly non-violent. Sex offenses and top felonies will stay on the books, as will any arrest that resulted in formal criminal charges.

A state senator and candidate for higher office on Thursday sought some attention for giving up a portion of his pay. This comes after Illinois lawmakers — for the first time in years — did not vote to symbolically cut their own pay. This form of salary self-denial has become popular in Illinois, but its roots are much deeper than that.

The base salary for a member of the Illinois General Assembly is $67,836 a year.

The credit rating agency Moody's is criticizing the Illinois state budget passed last week. As IPR's Brian Mackey reports, this is not a surprise to government officials.

Moody's says because Illinois did not extend higher income tax rates, it could have to rely on what it calls "credit negative" practices. Illinois already has the lowest credit rating of any state in the country. Moody's isn't lowering it further, at least not for now.

Illinois officials say a citizens' initiative to put term limits on state legislators has gathered enough signatures to appear on the ballot. But there are other roadblocks before that can happen.

  Collecting nearly twice the number of required signatures paid off for the Term Limits and Reform group.

Rupert Borgsmiller, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, says a sample validated roughly 61 percent of those signatures. He says he expects to present those findings to the board for final approval on June 17.

With the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session over, lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to the Capitol until November. Two months of fierce debate over state spending and taxes culminated in a stalemate, so they passed a placeholder budget that will likely have to be revisited at the end of the year.

The Illinois General Assembly is winding down its spring legislative session Friday, and could wrap up a day ahead of tomorrow’s scheduled adjournment. As IPR'S Brian Mackey reports, just a few big issues remain.

Topic A is the budget. Lawmakers spent months debating whether to make 2011’s temporary tax hike permanent or, with no other options, slash funding for state programs. In the end, they chose neither.

The Illinois House has voted to undo a series of cuts in the state's program of health care for the poor. Backers of the change say the cuts have come with a significant cost.

 Two years ago, Democrats and Republicans agreed to massive reductions in the Medicaid program, with savings estimated at greater than $2 billion. Now Democrats say some of those cuts are costing more than they're worth.

Gov. Pat Quinn says he supports asking voters whether Illinois' minimum wage ought to be raised to $10 an hour.

The state Senate approved that question today for the November ballot.

Senator Kimberly Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, says polling shows support for the hike across the state. She says a ballot question could give lawmakers the push they need.

The Illinois Math and Science Academy has been spared a significant cut under the budget approved Tuesday in the Illinois House. Lawmakers had previously voted to slash 1.8 million dollars from the elite public school's state funding.

Two months after Governor Pat Quinn laid out his vision for Illinois' budget, the House of Representatives has approved a state spending plan. Quinn presented two options: make 2011's temporary tax hike permanent, or make steep cuts across government. Lawmakers considered those options and chose ... neither.

Quinn has been clear about the potential consequences of letting Illinois' income tax rate drop, as it's scheduled to do at the end of the year.

Legislation intended to hasten the arrival of hydraulic fracturing in Illinois is advancing in the General Assembly. Illinois authorized the oil and gas extraction technique, commonly known as "fracking," last year.

The Illinois House has overwhelmingly rejected a 34.5 billion dollar "doomsday'" budget that would mean deep cuts to schools and social services next year. The budget plan was developed by legislative leaders after it became clear there weren't enough votes to support an earlier budget that relied on extending Illinois' temporary income tax increase.

The Illinois Senate has approved a resolution calling for Illinois to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The resolution is part of an ongoing effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to say rights cannot be deprived based on sex. 

House Speaker Michael Madigan wants voters to weigh in on his so-called "millionaires' tax" at the November elections. The referendum would ask if income greater than a million dollars should be taxed an additional three percent, with the money going to schools.

Democrats in the Illinois House on Wednesday handed a significant defeat to Governor Pat Quinn. Fewer than half are willing to go along with his push to extend a higher income tax rate. That could mean significant cuts in state spending. Brian Mackey reports on how Democrats backed themselves into this corner, and where they go from here.

Quinn has for two months been asking lawmakers to make 2011’s temporary income tax hike permanent.

Illinois lawmakers are going back to the drawing board on a state spending plan. Although Gov. Pat Quinn and top Democrats have been pushing for an extension of a higher income tax rate, House Speaker Michael Madigan says there isn't enough support for that.

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is wading deeper into the debate over whether Illinois ought to extend a higher income tax rate. He's still refusing to say how he would manage the state budget.

The Rauner campaign says it's making robo-calls to voters in seven House districts. These are key Democrats in the budget debate — most have previously taken positions against the higher tax rate.

Brian Mackey / Illinois Public Radio/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn appealed directly to Democrats in the Illinois House Monday. As IPR'S Brian Mackey reports, he’s struggling to win support for his plan to extend Illinois’ higher income tax rate.

The governor appeared at a closed meeting of the Illinois House Democratic caucus. Quinn is trying to win the support of the 60 Democrats required to make Illinois’ 5 percent income-tax rate permanent instead of letting it decline by more than a percentage point as scheduled at the end of the year.

Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield Monday to begin the final two weeks of the spring legislative session. As IPR'S Brian Mackey reports, the big question remains whether Democratic leaders can convince enough rank-and-file lawmakers to make a higher income tax rate permanent.

Although Gov. Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, and House Speaker Michael Madigan all support making the temporary 5-percent income tax rate permanent, Madigan in particular has had a hard time getting fellow House Democrats to go along.

In the House Democratic budget plan, most state institutions would get level funding or a slight increase.

One of the few cuts is directed at the Illinois Math and Science Academy.

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat whose Aurora district includes IMSA, says the decrease is because the elite high school has failed to meet diversity goals.

Illinois House Democrats are assembling a budget plan for state government. But a big piece of the puzzle is being left out.

The plan makes it seem obvious House Democrats have heeded Gov. Pat Quinn's call to keep the income tax rate at 5 percent. Except they won't actually say that out loud.

Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago typified the coyness.

"This always comes own to the last couple weeks," he says, "and we have to look at different sources of revenue. We have to look at: Do we add here? Do we cut there?"

An Illinois lawmakers is trying to change state law so car dealers can be open on Sundays. But he's facing long odds.

When Sen. Jim Oberweis, from Sugar Grove, learned it was against the law for a car dealer to be open on Sunday, his Republican instincts kicked in.

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