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Officials wary of budget plan

SPRINGFIELD – Area lawmakers reacted warily to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's budget address Wednesday, in which he outlined plans to fill an estimated $1.7 billion deficit and increase spending by $340 million without raising the income tax or sales tax.

The governor's $43.5 billion operations budget for the year beginning July 1 proposes cutting costs by $840 million and generating $945 million in new revenues on top of $280 million in estimated base revenue growth.

Carle will offer more free, discounted services

URBANA – Carle Foundation Hospital will expand its community care program in an effort to provide more free and discounted medical care for the poor and uninsured, hospital officials said today.

The community care program offers financial assistance – both in the form of free care and reduced charges – to patients who qualify based on how their household incomes stack up to federal poverty guidelines.

Governor's plan erases deficit

SPRINGFIELD – To solve what he estimates is a $1.7 billion deficit, Gov. Rod Blagojevich today proposed a $43.5 billion operations budget for the year beginning July 1 that spares the University of Illinois from major cuts, but will mean higher taxes for large farms and corporations, and elimination of funding for the Council on Food and Agricultural Research and other grants.

According to budget director John Filan, the governor plans to cut costs by $840 million, and expects to generate $945 million in new revenues on top of modest $280 million in estimated base revenue growth. That's enough to cover the deficit and a $340 million net increase in spending without raising the sales or income taxes, he said.

UI task force backs UI college

CHAMPAIGN – The University of Illinois College of Communications has received a glowing endorsement, and backing for expansion, by a 13-member task force appointed by the dean.

The task force, headed by journalism Professor Walter Harrington, recommended the college be expanded to a four-year program; that the advertising department be repaired rather than disbanded; and that WILL dramatically expand the involvement of students in its operations, among other recommendations. The recommendation now goes to College of Communications Dean Ron Yates, then on to UI Provost Richard Herman for review.

C-U seeks purchase option in water deal

URBANA – The cities of Urbana and Champaign want the option to be able to buy the local water system from Illinois American Water Co.

City officials disclosed this week that they are seeking a purchase option, and several other groundbreaking new provisions, as part of ongoing franchise renewal negotiations.

Ruling: Provena not tax-exempt entity

URBANA – The Illinois Department of Revenue has ruled that Provena Covenant Medical Center in Urbana is not a tax-exempt charitable organization – a ruling that could force the hospital to pay $1.1 million annually in local property taxes.

Champaign County and Provena officials confirmed the ruling was handed down on Friday.

No vendetta in earlier case, Culver says

LONGVIEW, Texas – Randall Coggin had worked for the Longview Independent School District for more than 30 years when he had a confrontation with a new superintendent.

Early in March 1999 Arthur Culver took charge of the east Texas district where Coggin was supervisor of the district's career and technology education department.

Ladies in the making

BISMARCK – When Norma Claypool holds a tea party, she has lots of advice for the young ladies sitting around her dining room table.

The Bismarck resident very seriously tells her young guests, "There are two things a lady should never leave home without: her smile and deodorant."

Man convicted of armed robbery at Jerry's IGA

URBANA – A 23-year-old Urbana man with a history of violent crimes faces up to 30 years in prison for his most recent conviction.

A Champaign County jury on Monday convicted Sean Blackwell, whose last known address was in the 2200 block of Cottage Grove Avenue, of the Feb. 2, 2003, armed robbery of an employee at the Jerry's IGA, 2010 S. Philo Road, U.

State handing out 5 ag scholarships

Applications are now available for "Excellence in Agriculture" scholarships from Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka's office.

"Agriculture education is so important to keeping the industry alive and well in Illinois," Topinka said in a written statement. "By encouraging today's students, we can help ensure agriculture's success well into the 21st century."