Illinois Budget 3.16.09

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Here are the top Illinois stories coming today from GateHouse News Service. Stories are available at www.gatehousenewsservice.com. Please check www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/news in the evening for changes to story lineup, including breaking news.

If your paper has a story, digest item, opinion piece or standalone photo to share, please e-mail it to Illinois@gatehousemedia.com.

Contacts:

Casey Laughman: (217) 816-3343, claughman@gatehousemedia.com

GATEHOUSE NEWSROOM

Economy guide: Story ideas, resources for covering the recession

http://ghnewsroom.com/article/economy-guide-story-ideas-resources-covering-recession

Tom Sudore: Twitter for your newsroom: FAQ, How-Tos, Resources.

http://ghnewsroom.com/article/twitter-you-newsroom-faq-how-tos-resources

TODAY’S SPOTLIGHT:

Economy has prom shoppers looking to save before stepping out

ROCKFORD – Tiffany Williams had a conversation with her mom about staying on budget this prom season. Williams, a 17-year-old senior at Christian Life High School in Rockford, is trying to spend less than $200 on her dress and accessories. She spent a little more last year but knows that the economy is dictating how the family spends this year. In a sagging economy, families are sticking to their budgets this season and looking for deals on clothes and accessories. At the same time, business owners are counting on prom as a rite of passage families will still spend money on. By Melissa Westphal of the Rockford Register Star. To localize: Check with local students and businesses to see if prom spending is down.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/features/x792893880

ILLINOIS NEWS

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/news

State Briefs. News from around the state.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x108128388

NOTE: The State Capitol Q&A, which normally moves Tuesday for use in Wednesday editions, will move Wednesday for Thursday use this week.

OPEN RECORDS: For Sunshine Week, GateHouse News Service tested the response of 34 state agencies on two simple, obviously open public records. Most agencies complied by fully filling the request, but many took several days to respond – even though state law indicates the information should be available upon request. The Quinn administration says it is working to improve transparency in government after predecessor Rod Blagojevich's "culture of secrecy." By Ryan Keith of the State Capitol bureau.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x1683625796

GOVERNMENT REFORM: The legislature's Joint Committee on Government Reform meets again at the Capitol, this time to discuss campaign finance reform. By Adriana Colindres of the State Capitol bureau. Developing from 3 p.m. meeting. Will be posted this evening.

ILLINOIS BUSINESS

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois_business

Illinois hopes to get train service up to speed

PEORIA – The great train race is on. With President Barack Obama's stimulus package pouring $8 billion into high-speed rail development, states across the country are working up proposals to secure funds. One of the most hopeful contingents hails from Illinois. By Steve Tarter of the Peoria Journal Star.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x1683625483

Bergstrom's no-idle unit catches on around U.S.

ROCKFORD – A patented Bergstrom Inc. product that saves diesel fuel is reaching trucks all over the country. Bergstrom has made 10,000 of its No-Idle Thermal Environment units, which keep parked truck cabs heated or cooled without idling engines — something Bergstrom officials say is unmatched by rival units. By Thomas V. Bona of the Rockford Register Star.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x1331529241

Builder becomes his own bank

ROCKFORD – John Slack doesn’t believe fear is driving down demand for new houses and condominiums. He thinks the rules of the buying game have changed for his potential customers. Slack, who owns and operates John Slack Construction with his wife, Kathy, is hoping to overcome a slow market by offering to finance about 30 available units on three-year contracts until the economy recovers. By Alex Gary of the Rockford Register Star. To localize: How are local homebuilders fighting a slow market?

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x1683625423

State oversight might drive electricity prices down

ROCKFORD – Electricity rates could drop this year, depending on how a state process plays out this spring. For the second year in a row, Illinois officials will oversee how much electricity distributors pay for the commodity, which in turn dictates what consumers pay. With the cost of electricity generation dropping, officials hope the state’s procurement process could pass the savings along. By Thomas V. Bona of the Rockford Register Star.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x1331529246

Natural gas prices a silver lining in sour economy

ROCKFORD – It was a bit easier to keep warm this winter. The average Nicor residential customer paid $45 less for natural gas from October through February than in the previous winter, a 6.5 percent drop. If projections for natural-gas prices hold, customers could keep paying less through the year despite an impending delivery rate hike. By Thomas V. Bona of the Rockford Register Star. To localize: Are natural gas prices in your area decreasing?

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x792893635

ILLINOIS LIFESTYLES

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois_lifestyle

SHARE members volunteer in exchange for food at cost

PEORIA – While the nation focuses on economic recovery in terms of corporate bailouts with billion-dollar price tags, Daniel Martin, 66, sees economic stimulus in a sack of potatoes and a bag of onions. Martin volunteers for SHARE Food, a not-for-profit that buys fresh fruit, vegetables and frozen meat at wholesale prices. Volunteers repackage bulk orders, and food is then sold at cost and distributed through a network of churches, assisted living complexes and pickup sites. There are no membership dues, but participants must volunteer at least two hours a month. By Clare Howard of the Peoria Journal Star.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/features/x1683625540

Operation SAFE mobilizes to help fix pet overpopulation

CREVE COUER – For every 25 dogs and cats brought into a shelter, just eight are adopted out or go home. It would take 25 million spaces - and about $50 billion annually - to keep them in shelters. Instead, the number of animals killed each year is in the millions. That's why Operation SAFE, which stands for Saving Animals From Euthanasia, promotes spaying and neutering. It even offers a mobile service, particularly for people in low-income areas and rural areas with large groups of feral cats. By Terry Bibo of the Peoria Journal Star.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x108127735

Arts network creates new palette for redevelopment

ROCKFORD – A new network called The Element believes artists are the key to reshape downtown’s image of urban squalor into a vibrant economic and creative engine. Churchill Grove neighborhood resident and artist Michael Idzikowski says it’s an approach that has worked in aged manufacturing and warehouse districts in St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Cleveland and other large cities. “Artists have a way of transforming the places where they live,” he said. “If you make a portion of downtown dedicated to artists, you might start to see different opinions forming about downtown.” By Jeff Kolkey of the Rockford Register Star. To localize: Is there a local artists’ network in your area that is working towards revitalizing downtown?

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x1331529331

SIU scientists debate using stem cells

SPRINGFIELD – A scientist at Springfield’s Southern Illinois University School of Medicine says President Barack Obama’s recent decision to lift the Bush administration’s restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research “opens the doors to tremendous progress.” But Gregory Brewer, an SIU medical microbiologist, said Obama’s decision will divert funding from “more fruitful” research involving adult stem cells and techniques to make certain cells behave like embryonic stem cells. By Dean Olsen of the State Journal-Register.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x110650876

ILLINOIS OPINIONS

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/opinions

BRITT: Toon on AIG bonuses.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/opinions/cartoons/x108128381

Jeff Vrabel: Filthy quilters cause outrage

I'll be perfectly honest. People have been bothering me to write about quilting forever, almost since I started this column in 1962.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/opinions/x1331528585

Dave Bakke: Tornado a lousy 100th birthday gift

It's not that Edith McGill turned 100 last Monday that makes her the subject of this column. No, it’s the fact that, at the same moment Edith was at a party to celebrate her 100th birthday, Mother Nature peeled half of the roof off Edith’s barn.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x599198001

Editorial: Government can create confidence with greater transparency

Sunshine Week, that annual event organized by journalists and media organizations to emphasize the value of open and responsive government, began Sunday. It's safe to say there's never been a better time to showcase those values. An editorial from the Peoria Journal Star.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/opinions/editorials/x1683625324

Editorial: COGFA still may need more powers

Two of the great injustices of the Rod Blagojevich era happened in Springfield and Pontiac when Blagojevich tried to move Department of Transportation jobs from the capital and shutter Pontiac Correctional Center. Those actions would hurt Springfield’s economy and cripple Pontiac. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, a bipartisan panel of legislators, rejected the moves. An editorial from the State Journal-Register.

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/x1683625321

ILLINOIS SPORTS

http://www.gatehousenewsservice.com/regional_news/midwest/illinois/sports

ILLINI:

WITH THE ILLINI: Illinois senior guard Chester Frazier just wants to be part of it. He’s not ready to give up on the idea of playing in the NCAA Tournament, even if it is a brief appearance in 2- or 3-minutes stints as a defender in the Illini’s tournament opener against Western Kentucky on Thursday. Lead to multi-sport notebook. By John Supinie. Will be posted this evening.

BACK IN THE DANCE: After reaching the Sweet 16 a year ago, Western Kentucky won the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title and conference tournament championship under first-year coach Ken McDonald. The Hilltoppers are regulars in the NCAA field. With WKU capsule. By John Supinie. Will be posted this evening.