Illinois Issues

TIF: The Swiss-Army Knife Development Tool

Sep 5, 2019

Analysis: University of Illinois Springfield Distinguished Public Finance Professor Kenneth Kriz co-edited a book that documents the evolution of tax increment financing, an economic and community development method widely used across the country, including in Illinois, which has more than 1,400 TIF districts in over 500 municipalities. 

Cornell Tech
Lindsay France / Cornell University

Most press conferences don’t provide breakfast pastries. But in mid-May, when the University of Illinois announced that every public four-year college in the state had signed on to its Innovation Network, the event was staged with some extra sizzle. Along with muffins, coffee and juice, there was a line-up of college presidents and chancellors, plus Springfield mayor Jim Langfelder, flanked by a big banner showing 15 stars strewn across the state of Illinois.

satellite image of Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, cut into puzzle pieces with a few missing
Photo: Apple Maps / Illustration: Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

After decades of growth, the number of men and women in the Illinois prison system has declined sharply in the last several years. A complex blend of decisions is behind the drop — ranging from the highest reaches of power in the General Assembly down to individual police on the beat.

decades of budget books line the shelves in the LEgislative Reference Bureau's library in the Illinois state Capitol
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

When lawmakers made performance-based budgeting the law in Illinois, they promised it would transform the way the state spends money. But after years of failing to invest in the program, backers say Illinois is finally getting serious about Budgeting for Results.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

 It was a logical step for a state that granted suffrage rights years before.   

Flickr / CC-by 2.0

A small but growing number of U.S. women are choosing to give birth at home. However home birth midwives are not regulated by the state of Illinois. Many mothers still choose to stay home, despite the risks involved in not having a proper vetting system.

Marijuana and criminal justice
Flickr: users memphislaw & temiraydisfruta, with adaptation

Politicians spearheading the effort to legalize recreational marijuana say revenue isn't the driving force. It's about promoting criminal and social justice for people of color who have been unfairly targeted by the war on drugs. But, prominent activists from minority communities question whether these lofty goals are possible. 

Student athletes in gym
Mark Ambrose

Illinois has 852 school districts — the third highest number of any state in the nation. Some are just single schools, with fewer than a hundred students. But getting districts to merge, or consolidate, has proven difficult.

 Should minors have to tell their parents or a judge when they want to terminate a pregnancy?

Illinois State Library

A long time ago, the tax was proposed by the GOP and opposed by Democrats. It became law, but it didn't last long.

Illinois House Democratic Caucus

Illinois could become the most progressive state in the nation on abortion rights if a proposed bill is approved this year.

Students, teachers, staff and volunteers pose for photo in prison
Karl Soderstrom

Ro’Derick Zavala grew up in Chicago at 21st and State Street — the northern tip of a four-mile corridor lined with 8,000 units of public housing. His mother worked three jobs, including one at Walgreens, where she would pick up the Disney and Hanna Barbera books that inspired Zavala to fall in love with reading at a young age.

That passion should’ve made him a successful student. But on Chicago’s south side, in the 1980s, it was hard to find a safe place to go to school.

Courtesy of Petina Dixon-Jenkins

In Illinois, losing a baby before its first birthday happens far more often to black mothers than those of other races. The difference between whites and blacks is nearly three-fold.

inhaling a cigarette
Julie via Flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For decades, public health advocates have pushed for limits on smoking. They've included warning labels on products to limits on where someone can light up, all of which have helped bring down smoking rates. But in Illinois, a push to raise the smoking age has repeatedly failed to become law. We took a look at this year's push, and what chance it has at becoming law.

Two students in lab
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

College has traditionally been the place young adults get the education they need to pursue their life’s calling. At one of Chicago’s City Colleges, there’s a program for student’s whose life calling deals with death.

Alycia Adams attends Malcolm X College, which is strategically located near Chicago’s medical district, and specializes in the health sciences. But unlike most of her classmates at Malcolm X, Adams isn’t learning anything about saving lives.

“It started with a guinea pig, in third grade,” she says. “I had the responsibility of taking care of it over the summer, and they don’t live long, and so it died.”

New Illinois Laws in 2019

Jan 1, 2019
Meagan Davis / Flickr

State lawmakers approved hundreds of changes that are now Illinois law.

Guns, hemp, and stalking are among the themes of the more than 250 new Illinois laws signed by Governor Bruce Rauner that took effect on New Year’s Day.

We took a look at some of the biggest changes to come out of Springfield in the past year, and how they'll affect life in the Prairie State in 2019.

  

Dana Heupel, who oversaw Illinois Issues for seven years, passed away Wednesday at his home in Springfield. He is being remembered for his professionalism, journalistic skills and kind nature.

Jennie Hodgers AKA Albert Cashier served in the Company G of the 95th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which fought at Vicksburg.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

An Illinois woman posed as a man and served in the infantry during the Civil War. Was she transgender?

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Two small towns in rural Illinois recently lost their Walmart stores -- more than three decades after the retail giant came in and pushed out mom and pop shops. Now, the communities have lost convenience as well as major property and sales tax revenue. Some see it as an opportunity to revitalize main street, while others are not so optimistic.

Why Is Deerfield (Still) So White?

Nov 15, 2018
Art Shay / @Art Shay Archive, 2018

Commentary: A North Shore suburban native reflects on the community's troubled racial history.

J.B. Pritzker for Governor

Former and outgoing Illinois leaders offer suggestions for the man going to the mansion. 

Pritzker - Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The upcoming general election will decide whether Republican Bruce Rauner gets another term as Illinois governor or if the voters will choose to go with Democrat J.B. Pritzker.

But there’s one outcome of the election we already know for certain: Illinois will continue its experiment with amateur politicians running state government.

Question cards form Illinois Issues Forums
Sean Crawford / NPR Illinois

A statewide series of forums this year found plenty of concern about the direction Illinois is heading.  But we also found work is being done at the local level to solve some of the problems.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Archives

Voters this fall are choosing who will occupy the state’s two financial offices: treasurer and comptroller. Even during campaigns, these positions rarely get much attention. In fact, their very existence usually comes into question in proposals to merge the offices into one. Years ago, one person was in charge.

It all changed after a massive scandal filled with fast moves, fancy cars and fraud tarnished state government moneyhandling forever.


Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Secretary of State Jesse White  has held the elected office nearly two decades. This year, his Republican opponent is questioning whether White will be able to serve out another four-year term if elected.

Sad Piggy Bank
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

While debating, candidates offered no concrete suggestions for addressing fiscal problems but possibilities exist.

In today's fevered political climate, is it possible to have a serious discussion about possible ways to address the fiscal problems Illinois faces?

Not very likely, if one judges by the first debate among incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and his three challengers, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, Conservative candidate/Republican Sen. Sam McCann, and Libertarian Grayson "Kash" Jackson.

Mae Benjamins daughter Melody works as Maes personal health care assistant.
COURTESY OF MELODY BENJAMIN

Some experts say black women may bear the brunt if union membership declines or financial support lessens as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which decreed that public sector unions can no longer force workers they represent to pay fees in lieu of union dues. But conservative groups say the cost is justified to protect workers' free speech rights. 

Yolanda Harrington walks one of her students into Barkstall Elementary in Champaign. Harrington, who had dreams of becoming a teacher, makes $18 an hour and works a second job. She has been a paraprofessional for 19 years.
Courtesy of the Student's Family

Like most states, Illinois is struggling with a severe teacher shortage. And, also like most states, that shortage is felt most profoundly in the area of special education. There is, however, an army of teacher assistants already on the job. Could they help relieve this shortage?

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGNS

Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan's decision to not seek re-election after over 15 years in office drew a plethora of candidates to the ballot. The last three standing, Republican nominee Erika Harold, Democratic candidate Kwame Raoul and Libertarian Bubba Harsy, continue to battle it out with just nine weeks until the general election.

Mary Hansen / NPR Illinois

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, John Lucas and his granddaughter, McKenna, bet on Saber Rattler at the Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville.

"If she wins this, it'll be the third race in a row she's won," says Lucas as they watch the horses round the final stretch of the track. Saber Rattler came in second.

Lucas has been visiting the track outside of St. Louis a few times a year since the 1980s, traveling across the Illinois border from O'Fallon, Missouri.

Lucas has noticed the steady downturn in fortunes for the track.

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