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Brian Mackey

Illinois Statehouse Reporter

Brian Mackey covers Illinois state government and politics from the WUIS Statehouse bureau. 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) 206-6020.

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The Illinois House and Senate will reconvene in Springfield today. The unusual June session comes as majority Democrats and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner continue to clash.

Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan say they’ve had “cordial” conversations. But their public statements have a different tone.

“The middle class is suffering under the politics of Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton," Rauner said.

Madigan says he thinks it’s an “example of functioning in the extreme.”

“It doesn’t help the process," Madigan said.

The Illinois House met in Springfield Thursday for an unusual June session. Democrats took a series of votes on changes to the workers’ compensation system.

Illinois just enacted a big, bipartisan overhaul of workers’ comp a few years ago. But Gov. Bruce Rauner says costs are still too high, and that more changes are needed.

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The Illinois Supreme Court struck down legislation that tried to cut retirement benefits for thousands of state workers.  In a unanimous decision, the high court said lawmakers overstepped their power when they sought to cut pension benefits for state employees, university workers, and public school teachers.

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.

Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Governor Bruce Rauner has spent much of his first few months in office talking about labor unions. He’s shared not only policy proposals, but also his ideas about the history of the union movement.

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.

Brian Mackey

Illinois’ new treasurer said he will not release the results of a taxpayer-funded investigation into his predecessor, Dan Rutherford.

Rich Egger

State Senator Mike Frerichs (D-Urbana) appears to have won the race to be Illinois’ next state treasurer.

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.

Amanda Vinicky/Illinois Public Radio

2014 was going to be a banner year for direct democracy in Illinois.

Illinois Public Broadcasting

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

An outsider to Illinois politics could be forgiven for thinking Gov. Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner are running for the position of job creator in chief.

Not long ago, it seemed every time a different type of crime started making the news, members of the Illinois General Assembly would rush to increase the penalty for that offense. But today — with prisons stuffed beyond capacity and state finances ailing — lawmakers have begun taking a more deliberate approach. Brian Mackey reports on a criminal sentencing culture change in the Illinois General Assembly.

The Illinois Supreme Court says the free health insurance enjoyed by state retirees is protected by the Illinois Constitution.

Voters will get to weigh in on whether Illinois should raise its minimum wage for adults to $10 an hour. Gov. Pat Quinn approved the ballot question Sunday, and 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.

Critics say this is a ploy to get more Democrats to the polls — since turnout tends to be lower in non-presidential election years.

Brian Mackey

A former state employee Thursday filed more allegations of political and sexual harassment against Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

The credit rating agency Moody's says Illinois is at risk of undermining progress toward better finances. It says the failure to extend current income tax rates could lead to a worsening deficit.

Moody's says because lawmakers failed to stop an automatic tax cut scheduled for the end of the year, Illinois could have to increase its backlog of unpaid bills. The state already has the lowest credit rating in the nation.

Republicans say this shows Illinois needs to further reduce costs, but Democratic Senate President John Cullerton says there isn't that much left to cut.

The General Assembly finished its legislative session shortly after midnight Saturday, approving a billion-dollar road construction program.

Democrats started the session with an ambitious agenda: raise the minimum wage, boost college assistance for low-income students, maybe even change Illinois' flat tax into a graduated one. In the end, none of that happened.

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.

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.

Amanda Vinicky/Illinois Public Radio

Illinois lawmakers are going back to the drawing board on a state spending plan.

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.

Gov. Pat Quinn appealed directly to Democrats in the Illinois House Monday evening. 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. Quinn warns without the higher tax rate, there will have to be drastic cuts in state services.

  A group of lawmakers granted themselves subpoena power Tuesday, to further an investigation into an anti-violence program favored by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Brian Mackey looks at whether it's necessary — or just for show.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was rushed out in fall 2010, as Quinn was up for election.

After more than two years of trying, Illinois has finally won a waiver from the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind. Brian Mackey reports on what this means for schools in Illinois.

  The short answer is not much.

Illinois has already been moving beyond the No Child Left Behind law for some time, even as it waited for permission from the federal government.

Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education, says there were problems with No Child Left Behind.

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Backers of the proposed FutureGen power plant have reached an agreement with the leaders of 17 labor unions.

At least two constitutional amendments will be on ballots across Illinois this November.

A new report (PDF) says Illinois' pension overhaul will save less money than advertised. Some politicians are trying to make hay out of that. But it might not be such a big deal.

The pension vote came with promises of big savings — $160 billion. Then, after it was already law, a new analysis of the bill said, well, maybe we'll save $145 billion.

This latest report puts savings even lower, at $137 billion.

One of the top Democrats in the Illinois legislature is calling for a "millionaire's tax."

The election returns in yesterday’s Illinois primary were not even in before the candidates for governor started attacking each other. Republicans chose wealthy investor Bruce Rauner to take on Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. Brian Mackey looks at the surprisingly close election results, and what’s ahead for the campaign.

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