Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Tings are OK"

That's House Speaker Michael Madigan using his best Chicago accent to jokingly gauge the progress of leaders’ meeting with Gov. Rod Blagojevich Tuesday in Springfield to discuss the expansion of gaming for new revenue. Turning on the serious tone, Madigan said, “We had a good meeting, and it appears that we’re making progress. Not everything is resolved. There are differences, which I’m not going to get into.”

The four leaders of both parties met with Blagojevich in the Statehouse Tuesday afternoon and all reported progress, although they wouldn’t talk specifics. And it may take more than the seven to 10 days originally said to be the timeline for agreeing on how much to expand gaming and how to pay for Chicago mass transit, statewide construction projects and education.

The proposals on the table but not quite agreed upon include:
- A land-based casino owned by the city of Chicago, although they have to nail down a way to share the revenue between the city and the state
- One riverboat elsewhere in the state, although there’s no indication where that second boat would go
- Slots at horseracing tracks, although they aren’t releasing a number of new positions that would be allowed
- An independent gaming board, desired by House Speaker Michael Madigan, House Minority Leader Tom Cross and Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, although it has some opposition or concerns about who would appoint the new gaming board members
- A 70-30 split of the revenue — 70 percent of the new gaming revenue would pay for road and school construction, while 30 percent would provide new education funding per Senate President Emil Jones Jr.’s desire, although the leaders haven’t yet agreed on how much revenue would be generated in the first place

Regarding the split of money, Watson said, “The bigger the capital bill, the better, as far as I’m concerned, but I’m not opposed to the 30 percent that’s being allocated to education.”

He also said he could vote for slots at the tracks, but added, “I’m not sure I’ve got members who can. That’s the biggest problem.”

And the revised timeline, per Watson, is that seven to 10 days may have been the original goal, but “I think we’re talking more time than that.”

The leaders scheduled a telephone conference for Thursday.

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