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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois' public universities are warning of serious perils if the state's temporary income tax increase is allowed to expire as scheduled in January.
 
Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard says institutions of higher education are anticipating a 30 percent decrease in funding next year because of an expected $1.5 billion reduction in state revenues.
 
Poshard told a Senate appropriations committee Thursday that budget cuts would mean larger class sizes, having more classes taught by adjunct professors instead of tenured faculty and an increase in tuition.
 
Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas says the state's backlog of bills has already created budget headaches for his institution.
 
Both presidents say increasing the state's minimum wage as Gov. Pat Quinn wants could heighten budget problems, requiring millions more to pay their student workforces.
Published in Local News
Thursday, 06 March 2014 12:55

Report: More Illinois kids with health care

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A new report shows fewer Illinois children are without health insurance, but the number of cases of child abuse is climbing.
 
The annual report released Thursday comes from a non-partisan organization advocating for policies concerning children called Voices For Illinois Children.
 
The report shows the percentage of children without health insurance fell from 6 percent to 3 percent since 2008.  It also found Illinois has "significantly narrowed" racial and ethnic disparities in children's health insurance coverage.
 
But cases of child abuse and neglect have risen 13 percent since 2006. Some of the largest increases were in DuPage, Kane, Macon, Vermillion and Will counties.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Some county clerks say they won't rush to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples just because Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told them they can.
 
The state's new gay marriage law takes effect June 1. But Madigan said this week that licenses can be issued now.
 
About a dozen clerks tell The Associated Press they are waiting. They say they don't want to open themselves up to lawsuits and want to protect the couples from legal challenges.
 
Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean says he hopes to start issuing licenses as early as Friday. But he says he will tell the couples they could face legal challenges to their marriages.
 
Clerks in Cook and Champaign counties have decided to go ahead after a court ruled Cook County could do so.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Parts of Illinois reported a slow start to early voting, but Cook County's suburbs saw an uptick.
 
Cook County Clerk David Orr's office said Tuesday that 2,354 people cast ballots Monday, the start of early voting for March 18's primary. In 2010's primary, nearly 1,300 suburbanites cast first day ballots. In 2012, it was roughly 2,100.
 
Orr's office covers over 120 municipalities excluding Chicago. The region has previously reported a higher turnout than Illinois' average.
 
About 8 percent of Illinois voters cast early ballots in 2010 and 2012 primaries. In suburban Cook, 9.5 percent voted early in 2010. More than 11 percent did in 2012.
 
Orr's office says availability of suburban early voting sites might explain the turnout. There are 43. Chicago has 51.
 
Early voting ends March 15.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Republican candidate for Illinois governor Kirk Dillard says he plans to "campaign like crazy" in the final weeks before the March 18 primary.
 
The state senator from Hinsdale spoke during a news conference Tuesday where he also discussed his plan to improve Illinois' economy.
 
The proposal includes capping state spending at this year's levels "for the foreseeable future," reducing the state's debt and repealing burdensome business regulations.
 
Dillard faces state Sen. Bill Brady, businessman Bruce Rauner (ROW'-nur) and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford for the GOP nomination.
 
Dillard says he plans to focus on his economic plan and improving Illinois schools during the campaign's final days. His campaign also launched statewide cable TV ads on Tuesday.
 
The candidates are scheduled to debate Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago.
Published in Local News
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Phil Allen and other Illinois gun enthusiasts eager for the right to publicly carry concealed handguns are celebrating as their long-awaited permits showing arrive in their mailboxes.
 
As a licensed concealed-carry instructor in Mascoutah east of St. Louis, Allen says receiving his permit Monday made him "ready to do a happy dance."
 
Allen's permit is among the first batch of roughly 5,000 that Illinois State Police are mailing under the state law passed last year. Illinois is the last state in the nation to allow the practice.
 
The agency says about 46,000 applications have been received so far.
 
While cheering the milestone of the mailings, Democratic State Rep. Brandon Phelps from Harrisburg says there's room for relaxing where concealed handguns may be carried.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - A new report says electricity deregulation has saved Illinois customers up to $37 billion over the past 16 years.
 
The report being released Monday by four business groups says the average household has paid $3,600 less overall than if the average annual electricity rates had stayed the same.
 
Deregulation kicked in in 1998, allowing Illinois utilities to compete for business on the open market rather than being regulated monopolies whose rates were set. The utilities before deregulation both supplied and delivered electricity to customers, who had no other choices.
 
The legislature also restructured the natural gas market.
 
The report was issued by the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Business Roundtable.
 
Electric rates have risen recently as utilities make "smart grid" improvements.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois officials say the state's backlog of unpaid bills is decreasing.
 
The Springfield State Journal-Register reports the backlog is expected to fall to $5.6 billion by June 30, which is the end of the current fiscal year. That's down from a high of $9.9 billion in 2010.
 
The figures came from a letter acting budget director Jerome Stermer wrote to legislative leaders, adding that the unpaid tab was $6.4 billion in December.
 
The newspaper's story is part of GateHouse newspapers' series on Illinois' backlog of unpaid bills.
 
Lawmakers from both parties say the state has made progress, but say there's still more work to be done.
Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois State Police officials say the first concealed carry licenses are being mailed.
 
Officials say the first permits are being sent to new license holders on Friday. Illinois State Police say they've approved 5,000 applications so far.
 
State Police Col. Marc Maton (MAY'-tahn) says state police have denied 300 applications and received objections from local law enforcement agencies on 800 applicants.
 
Maton says 46,000 applications have been received so far.
 
Illinois gun owners began applying for the permits in January after the state became the last in the nation to allow people to carry concealed guns.
 
State officials believe as many as 400,000 people will apply for the concealed carry permits during the first year of the law.
Published in Local News
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - A southwestern Illinois lawmaker wants communities around the state to be able install speed cameras, which are only allowed in Chicago.
 
The Belleville News-Democrat reports Rep. Jay Hoffman has introduced legislation that'd allow communities of all sizes to install the devices.
 
Legislation signed by the governor in 2012 limited speed cameras to cities with at least 1 million residents, making the statute apply solely to Chicago.
 
Hoffman is a Belleville Democrat. He says he wants "one uniform law for the whole state."
 
Speed cameras are only allowed in designated safety zones - areas near a school or a park. Drivers caught by the cameras can face $100 fines. Money generated from the tickets can only be used for public safety initiatives, construction or infrastructure maintenance.
 
Published in Local News
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