Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A pumped up General Assembly

Chicago Democrat Rep. Robert Molaro said he will come back to the Capitol on steroids next session, a playful way of saying he'll beef up his efforts to gather a few more votes for his narrowly defeated measure to give more money to the horse racing industry. His measure failed two times, both after lengthy debates. The first time, he would have had enough votes to pass the bill out of the House, but Republican Rep. Lee Daniels was not on the floor to push the "yes" button. Today, he fell two votes short. In defeat, Molaro said: “I feel like I'm Rick Monday or Bobby Murcer in the Cubs in the seventh. I get to the warning track, and I can't hit that homer. You've forced me to go on steroids. And next year, I will be back here with these bills, and it will be Molaro on steroids, so look out."

The whole General Assembly is trying to move in fast forward so politicians can go home for the summer by April 7. Yet, their progress has been bogged down by disagreements on how to spend next year's budget. Numerous special interests are fighting for nonexistent extra money from the state.

Molaro's controversial idea was to swipe 3 percent of riverboats' profits, which are already taxed 50 percent, to give horse tracks more money so they can boost dwindling attendance. A longtime Democrat leader of gaming issues, Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie, said he couldn't support the bill because it would take $50 million from riverboats to save a separate gaming sector. "It would be as if we taxed restaurants to help the plumbing industry. There is no reasonable public policy that says to us, 'Let's put a tax on one industry to help another stay alive.'" In light of the pending budget, Lang said he couldn't imagine going home to constituents and explaining “why we gave $50 million to racetracks instead of to schools, instead of to healthcare, instead of needy families, instead of housing, instead of a vast array of areas that need our help."

Molaro said his "jobs bill" would have helped more than 30,000 families stay employed by Illinois' horse racing industry.

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