Sunday, May 17, 2009

Revenue first, spending second for capital plan

By Bethany Jaeger
Senate Democrats and Republicans are inching closer to an agreement on at least half of the capital plan: the revenue side. Measures to raise about $1 billion of the state's share through various tax and fee increases, as well as two gaming-related revenue ideas, could advance early this week. The spending side of the roughly $26 billion construction plan, however, will take longer to negotiate.

Senate Democrats met behind closed doors Sunday evening, setting up what's scheduled to be the last two weeks of the spring legislative session. The goal remains to adjourn two days early on May 29, said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton. Expect the Senate to act on capital construction package and ethics reforms this week. Negotiations on an operating budget, so far, have been separate.

The construction program for roads, bridges, schools and infrastructure projects would rely on a series of revenue sources, the largest being about $375 million from the legalization of video poker machines in bars, truck stops and other establishments where alcohol is served, according to a Democratic source. The second largest source, about $331 million, would come from increased driving-related fees.

The plan also would allow a private company to manage the Illinois Lottery and allow tickets to be sold online, bringing in about $150 million. Additional revenue sources would include $150 million from expanded taxes on candy, non-carbonated drinks and some health and beauty aid products, as well as
$114 million from expanded taxes on wine (13 cents a bottle), liquor (80 cents a bottle) and beer (about 2 cents a six pack). An increase on the state's motor fuel tax is no longer on the table.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said her caucus wants the two gaming-related measures in one bill and the other revenue sources in another bill to separate the votes. “It’s primarily to address the fact that there are people in all four caucuses that would never under any circumstances vote for gaming," she said. Cullerton is considering the request, Phelon said.

We'll have much more this week.

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