By Bethany Jaeger, with Jamey Dunn contributing
The proposal to build three new gambling facilities in northern Illinois (Chicago, Rockford and Waukegan) and expand existing gaming operations reemerged in a new version today. Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, introduced SB 744, which is expected to be debated next week when the legislature returns to the Capitol.
Such expansive gaming bills have built momentum only to collapse in previous years, particularly as lawmakers struggled to agree on a way to finance a major capital construction program. This time, Link’s version would build three new land-based casinos rather than riverboats. And Senate President John Cullerton has said he would not rely on a gaming bill to fund a capital plan because it gets too loaded down by politics.
Gaming, however, is not on House Speaker Michael Madigan’s agenda. “I’m not interested in working on gaming legislation,” he said today during an unrelated Statehouse news conference. “I did that about a year ago, and given that experience, I’m not interested in revisiting that.”
House Minority Leader Tom Cross supports some gaming expansions as a new revenue source, including revenue that could help pay for a construction program. After meeting with Gov. Pat Quinn and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno this afternoon, Cross said that the speaker is ruling out gaming as a way to push legislators toward tax increases. “He’s forcing people to look at sales or income tax as the only option to fund things, which I think is a huge mistake in this economy,” he said.
Madigan repeated today that he would support an income tax increase but not increased spending. “I’m prepared to vote for an increase in the income tax to balance the budget and pay the bills but not grow the government,” he said. “This government has grown for six years at an accelerated pace, and now we’re looking at an operating deficit of around $10 billion. And so I don’t think given the history of six years, given the size of the operating deficit, that this is time to grow the government.”
Radogno, like other Senate members, said she hasn’t given up on gaming as a revenue source. “We certainly have some gaming right now, and there’s been support for it in the past. So, I’m still open.”