Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner (ROW’-ner) brings his campaign to Springfield with a daring message in the Capitol City… government workers are getting paid too much.
The wealthy Chicago businessman is vowing to bring a more businesslike approach to government… and he says that means getting spending under control. And in an interview for the 970 WMAY “News Feed,” Rauner points to one specific area where he says Illinois needs to spend much less. He says government workers are overpaid by 23% compared to public sector workers in neighboring states, and contends the disparity is even worse compared to the private sector. Rauner calls that unfair.
And he says that, and other, spending has to be reduced because taxes also must come down. He promises a comprehensive review of the state’s entire tax structure… from income to sales to property… with an eye toward cutting it as much as possible.
Rauner says the big problem is that Illinois politicians are being controlled by public sector unions, in a system that he calls a corrupt conflict of interest. Rauner is vowing to end the union influence if he’s elected.
Here’s a number that could have you white-knuckling the steering wheel.
A transportation safety group claims that 1 in 12 Illinois bridges are “structurally deficient,” putting them at risk of collapse. The group Transportation for America says more than 2300 Illinois bridges are in need of extensive maintenance work… or should be replaced entirely.
Despite those numbers, Illinois actually scores better than most states… 34 others had a higher percentage of potentially dangerous bridges.
The Sangamon County Fair is now underway… and the sheriff’s office is asking you to consider using alternate routes to get there.
In a press release, Undersheriff Jack Campbell says on big concert nights… such as Friday’s upcoming appearance by country star Trace Adkins… traffic gets backed up on Interstate 72 at the New Berlin exit, creating a hazardous situation. Campbell recommends exiting instead at either the Curran exit from the east, or the Alexander exit from the west, and then taking back roads to New Berlin.
The fair runs through Sunday. Tonight (Wednesday), events include the Motocross competition and the Miss Sangamon County Fair pageant.
Search and rescue crews on a training exercise have discovered the body of a man near the Stanford Avenue overpass.
The coroner’s office says it has not positively identified the man or determined a cause of death.
An autopsy will be conducted.
Those rescue squad members were training in that area as part of the ongoing search for a Springfield man who disappeared more than two weeks ago, but officials have not confirmed whether the body is that of the missing man.
Murals are coming to more building exteriors in downtown Springfield.
A week after a contentious argument over the project in a Springfield City Council committee of the whole meeting, aldermen on Tuesday unanimously, and without debate, approved $50,000 in downtown TIF district money to help the project.
Mayor Mike Houston dislikes the use of TIF money for the project, saying it will not generate additional tax dollars for the downtown TIF, but says a veto would be pointless because of the overwhelming support on the City Council.
Illinois lawmakers will make another try at passing pension reform during today’s special session… but it’s likely to be July before a deal is approved.
The game plan now among legislative leaders is to appoint a “conference committee” of lawmakers from both chambers and both parties to work out a compromise from the various competing pension proposals.
The legislature would then come back in July for a final vote.
Governor Pat Quinn wants to bring them back in early July… which would also allow for any follow-up votes on concealed carry legislation if necessary.
But legislative leaders say the pension deal may not be done that soon.
Springfield’s interim school superintendent says there is some initial interest in at least one of the two school buildings that were closed down last month in the latest round of budget cuts.
Bob Leming says there has been some conversation with a community service agency… which he did not identify… but he says it’s too early to go into much detail about where that could lead.
School board member Scott McFarland is pressing for the district to either use or sell the former Pleasant Hill and Wanless school buildings so that they don’t just sit empty in the middle of their North End neighborhoods.
Wednesday’s special legislative session won’t be the last time that lawmakers convene in Springfield this summer.
Governor Pat Quinn’s office says the plan now is to appoint a “conference committee” made up of lawmakers from both chambers who will negotiate agreement on the competing pension reform plans now on the table. The legislature would then come back in early July to give final approval to that deal.
State Senator Andy Manar (muh-NAR’), in an interview for the 970 WMAY “News Feed,” says he’s more optimistic now that a deal can actually come together… after months of disagreement.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been granted a little more time to craft a possible appeal of the ruling that ordered the state to pass a concealed carry law.
Madigan hasn’t decided if she will appeal that ruling… but wants to keep the option open until Governor Pat Quinn decides what he plans to do with a concealed carry bill that’s now sitting on his desk.
The U.S. Supreme Court has now given Madigan until July 22nd to take action.
Another state’s attorney has decided to allow people to carry concealed weapons in his county.
The top prosecutor in White County joins at least four others around the state in choosing to no longer prosecute such cases… following the court ruling that ordered Illinois to repeal its ban and pass a concealed carry law.
Other state’s attorneys are also considering similar moves… including Macon County, where prosecutors are still developing what standard they may apply while the state concealed carry law is in limbo.
Both a top Democrat and a local Republican on Capitol Hill are expressing concerns about the size and scope of government snooping.
U.S Senator Dick Durbin and GOP representative Rodney Davis appeared live on 970 WMAY’s “Jim Leach Show.” In separate interviews, each said the collection of phone records on the vast majority of Americans has the potential for abuse.
Davis says he’s not aware that the privacy of innocent Americans has actually been violated, and notes that privacy and security are a delicate balance.
But Durbin sees little difference between the current program and similar surveillance under President George W. Bush… and says in both cases, the government went too far.
Despite a plea for fast action from a Springfield school board member, District 186 officials acknowledge they have no plans at the moment for two recently-vacated school buildings.
Furniture is being moved out of Wanless and Pleasant Hill schools… most of it going to Feitshans (FIGHT’-shuns), where those students will attend classes in the fall. After that, some space will be used for storage, but beyond that, the district has made no arrangements to either occupy or sell the buildings.
Board member Scott McFarland is asking for a plan as soon as possible, saying those vacant buildings could hurt property values in their north-end neighborhoods.
A popular local TV newscaster is now popping up… on a different channel.
Marianne Manko… who abruptly left WICS Channel 20 earlier this year… has now been hired as an afternoon news anchor at WAND-TV in Decatur. On her Facebook page, Manko says she will be anchoring the 4pm and 5pm newscasts.
She has never explained the circumstances of her departure from WICS, but says on a Facebook post that “things work out for the best.”
A residency requirement is back in the news… but this time, it’s an issue for District 186.
School board vice-president Adam Lopez wants to clamp down harder on the district’s residency rule for administrators, saying the rule is vague about who is affected by it, and is only loosely enforced.
Interim superintendent Bob Leming says at least four administrators in the district appear to be in violation of the rule at the moment.
Lopez and others say if the district is good enough to work for, it should be good enough to live in.
Are uniforms the wave of the future for Springfield public schools?
Two more elementary schools are requesting permission to require students to wear uniforms… solid-colored shirts with dark or khaki pants.
The new Feitshans Elementary School… made up of students from the former Pleasant Hill and Wanless schools… wants to require a school logo on the shirt to establish a sense of identity in the new location.
The school board will vote on both requests next month.
Governor Pat Quinn has signed a bill to allow “fracking” in the state… with strict regulation.
Quinn signed the bill in private, without a signing ceremony, apparently because the measure remains controversial with environmentalists who think hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and natural gas from the ground will damage soil and groundwater.
One dispute related to a downtown TIF project is being patched up… and another one is breaking out.
Three Springfield aldermen are announcing their support for the use of $50,000 in TIF funds to pay for a downtown mural project. That includes Alderman Frank Edwards, who last week used the term “fluff” when discussing the project, but now says it will provide a boost to downtown’s image.
But Edwards and other aldermen are now criticizing Mayor Mike Houston, who claimed last week that the city council was draining the downtown TIF dry. The aldermen say Houston is simply way off the mark.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan is asking for yet another extension of the deadline for a possible appeal of a court order mandating that Illinois put a concealed carry law on the books.
The original order required that law to be in place by June 9th, but the U.S. Supreme Court gave Madigan until June 24th to file an appeal if one is necessary.
But since Governor Pat Quinn has not acted yet on the bill that cleared the legislature last month, Madigan is asking the High Court to stretch that further… to July 24th... to see what Quinn will do and whether an appeal would be needed after that.
Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation that clears the way for fracking to go forward in the state… under the watchful eye of regulators.
Supporters say the bill will create jobs and revenue in the state… and allow companies to extract more needed oil and natural gas from well below the Earth’s surface.
Quinn signed the bill in private and did not stage a signing ceremony, apparently to avoid antagonizing environmentalists who say the effects of fracking on the Earth and groundwater are still unknown.
The latest pension plan to be floated before the General Assembly is coming from a group of conservative Republican lawmakers.
The GOP plan calls for state workers to be moved to a 401(k)-style plan… with defined contributions, but not necessarily defined or guaranteed benefits.
The plan is also supported by the conservative think tank Illinois Policy Institute. Executive director John Tillman, appearing live on 970 WMAY, says public sector pay and benefits are far more generous than the private sector, and taxpayers can’t afford to pay for benefits that they themselves can’t get.
Governor Pat Quinn’s challenger in next year’s Democratic primary is offering a road map that he says could break the logjam over pension reform.
Bill Daley says a pension plan isn’t getting passed because Quinn is not showing enough leadership on the issue. Daley says Quinn and another potential Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, should make the case that House Speaker Mike Madigan’s pension bill is constitutional.
Daley says Quinn should then threaten to veto any other plan… and pledge to earmark a portion of the savings from Madigan’s plan for education. The governor has said it’s now up to the legislative leaders to reach a deal on pensions.
Organizers of the Sangamon County Fair say they are thriving where other county fairs are struggling… because of a mix of affordability and top flight entertainment.
The Grandstand lineup is heavy on country… including stars like Trace Adkins and Little Big Town. Fair manager Kris Neuman says the emphasis on country reflects both its popularity and the comparatively low cost of booking those acts.
That lets the fair include the concerts and carnival rides as part of a single admission price. The fair opens Wednesday in New Berlin.
A proposed pension reform plan would have Illinois university employees paying more toward their pensions while receiving annual retirement-pay increases tied to inflation.
The plan would also shift employers' portion of pension payments from the state to universities and community colleges over a dozen years.
Senate President John Cullerton is expected to hold a hearing on it on Tuesday.
But most of the focus on Wednesday’s special session will be on House Speaker Mike Madigan’s pension plan, which is expected to be called again for a vote… even though it was overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate last month.