Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. He was previously A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

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Illinois is one step closer to having a budget for next year — the state Senate approved a spending plan late Wednesday night.

It follows years of bitter partisan fighting over state taxes and spending. But the mood around this year’s budget is remarkably different.

As Illinois lawmakers try to pass a state budget by Thursday, credit rating agencies say they’re less focused on the timing of a spending plan than they were a year ago.

With just two days remaining in the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly, lawmakers are optimistic about passing a state budget on time.

Illinois legislators are trying to help state taxpayers get around limitations in the new federal tax law. But the federal government may negate the plan before it even has a chance to become law.

Conversations around gun violence often revolve around long-term solutions, like improving schools or the local economy.

But even if those things were easy — and they’re not — it would take a generation to realize the benefits.

And for the Illinoisans living and dying in these communities — mostly low-income, black communities — they don’t have time to wait.

The gun debate returned to the Illinois Capitol Wednesday. The group Moms Demand Action was lobbying to require state licenses for gun dealers.

There was a rare meeting Thursday among Gov. Bruce Rauner and the top leaders of the Illinois General Assembly.

Passing a state budget is arguably the most important thing the Illinois General Assembly does every year — or at least should do every year.

After last year's drama — when a two-year standoff ended with a Republican revolt against Governor Bruce Rauner — it's an open question about how things will go this year.

So I set out to answer a simple question: Will there be another impasse?

The University of Illinois president told a panel of lawmakers Thursday that he'd like to maintain a freeze on tuition rates.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is expecting a new addition to his family: he and First Lady Diana Rauner are becoming first-time grandparents.

Rauner, 61, has six children, all grown, so this was bound to happen at some point.

Still, the governor seemed caught off guard when reporters asked about it this week.

“Uhhh, well,” Rauner said before laughing. “Um, OK. I wasn’t going to about that, but I’m happy — you know what, we’re so excited, I’m sort of busting at the buttons.”

Governor Bruce Rauner’s office has been criticized by a state audit.

Governor Bruce Rauner has signed what education officials say is the final law needed to make major changes to the way Illinois funds public schools.

The big bipartisan overhaul was signed into law last summer. But as sometimes happens with major legislation, the government officials whose job is to implement it came back to lawmakers saying mistakes were made, and no new money would flow without a legislative fix.

State Senator Andy Manar, the central Illinois Democrat who sponsored the legislation, blames that partly on ...

Illinois primary voters have spoken. This year’s race for governor will be a battle between two of the wealthiest men in the state.

But this outcome almost didn’t come to pass.

Democrat J.B. Pritzker won easily, but incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner barely escaped a humiliating defeat.

CREDIT JIM MEADOWS / JEANNE IVES / BRIAN MACKEY

Voters will finally have their say in Illinois' primary election Tuesday. It’s been a record-breaking year in terms of political fundraising. That’s largely because of two men. 

Gov. Bruce Rauner spent more than $65 million dollars when he was elected four years ago. As of last week, J.B. Pritzker topped that, nearing the $70 million dollar mark, and that’s just for the primary.
 

A key difference? Rauner mixes his own money with other donations whereas Pritzker has just one funder, himself.

Polls are open tomorrow from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A mother is suing Illinois and Sangamon County officials for failing to prevent her daughter's suicide.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan today issued a warning to his fellow Democratic legislators … on sexual harassment.

In the past month, Madigan has let go of two key political operatives. Last week, he made public some information about complaints against people in his government office.

Now, he says because of recent meetings with staff, he felt compelled to make the rules “crystal clear" to legislators. He says sexual comments, advances and relationships with staff are inappropriate — whether or not the staffer works for that legislator.

With more student protests expected after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, the ACLU of Illinois is encouraging schools to respect free speech rights.

How would contenders for the state's top legal office have handled the budget stalemate?

An Illinois labor union is suing Gov. Bruce Rauner over an Illinois law. The case — filed Thursday afternoon in federal court — expects bad news for labor in the (potential) landmark Janus v. AFSCME case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Five of the Democrats running for Illinois governor met at a debate Wednesday night in Springfield. Among the prime topics was House Speaker Michael Madigan’s handing of harassment in his political organization.

When out campaigning, Governor Bruce Rauner has been making big claims about lowering taxes. But there was little follow-through in Wednesday's budget proposal.

Gov. Bruce Rauner outlined his plans for the Illinois budget in a speech to lawmakers Wednesday afternoon.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has been campaigning relentlessly against last year’s income tax increase.

But in his annual budget address Wednesday, he'll call for spending the extra money that rate hike has generated.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is scheduled to unveil his fourth budget proposal Wednesday in a speech to the General Assembly.

Illinois lawmakers have only enacted a budget for one of the three years he’s been in office.

That led to service cuts and some layoffs, but the state didn’t collapse. For most people, life went on as normal.

So we asked Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey: Does it really matter if Illinois has a budget?

After one year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the business community is largely pleased with the results: reductions in tax rates and a rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations. But there are concerns about the president's positions on immigration, and the general chaos of the White House.

For more on the business perspective of Trump's first year in office, I spoke with with Todd Maisch, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. I began by asking him what, from a business perspective, were the best things to come out of Washington this year.

Peoria Public Radio

An audit issued today shows Illinois government could not properly account for more than seven billion dollars paid to private medical insurance companies.

It comes as Governor Bruce Rauner's administration is planning to expand the program.

Medicaid is Illinois' health care program for the elderly, poor and disabled. And the Rauner administration wants more of it run by private insurance.

But Democratic Rep. Fred Crespo, from Hoffman Estates, says these Managed Care Organizations, or MCOs, are squeezing patients.

Five of the six Democrats running for governor were in Peoria over the Martin Luther King Day weekend. They were making largely similar cases to voters at a forum on criminal and economic justice.

Most of the Democrats running for governor of Illinois have long since come out in favor of a graduated income tax, where wealthier people pay a higher rate on income above a certain amount. But it wasn’t until Thursday that one candidate said what that amount ought to be.

As we get ready to welcome 2018, we thought we’d take a few minutes to listen back to another wild year in Illinois government and politics.

A new law allowing public funding of abortion in Illinois will take effect as scheduled on January 1. That’s after a judge on Thursday ruled against anti-abortion groups who’d sued to block it.

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