Monday, September 17, 2007

All in one: gaming, capital and mass transit

The Senate could consider a new gaming bill that would pay for a capital plan and, potentially, Chicago mass transit all in one. (The governor temporarily saved mass transit last week.) Some Senate Republicans favor the all-in-one strategy, but its fate is uncertain in the House. But House Speaker Michael Madigan wasn’t invited to the Springfield meeting between Senate leadership and Gov. Rod Blagojevich this afternoon. After the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson said, “How do you leave out the speaker of the House in this discussion? But that’s what’s happened.”

One gaming proposal outlined by Sen. James DeLeo, a Chicago Democrat and assistant majority leader, would create a new casino in Chicago and two others somewhere in the state. The revenue, an undetermined amount, would help pay for road and school construction projects as well as mass transit. It also would serve as an alternative to the House’s version of a mass transit bill that would increase the sales tax in the Chicago region and allow a real estate transfer tax in the city of Chicago.

But opinions differ about the all-in-one approach. DeLeo says Senate Democrats think the chamber should focus on gaming and capital first. “If we have a capital and gaming bill, we can certainly give the [Regional Transportation Authority] a lot more funding than anticipated. So it’s a better way to go. And we wouldn’t have to do a sales tax.” It also would satisfy the governor’s repeated no-tax pledge for state income or sales taxes.

Sen. Christine Radogno, a Lemont Republican, said she actually agreed with the governor and credited him for opposing the sales tax increase, which she says is regressive and would unfairly apply to food and drugs. Instead, she favors the consideration of more transportation-related fees, such as those for drivers’ licenses and vehicle stickers.

The governor, on the other hand, still favors closing “corporate loopholes,” or ending various tax breaks for businesses. Eric Zorn now with the Chicago Tribune has more here.

The Senate Democrats and Republicans are meeting behind closed doors in their respective caucuses tonight. The chamber is scheduled to convene around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and break for committees around 11 a.m. or noon. Meanwhile, House Democrats continue to hold a series of budget hearings around the state to build support for overrides of Blagojevich’s budget cuts. One interesting thing I missed before: According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the governor’s budget cuts total $470 million, not the $463 million announced by the governor’s office.

No comments: