Althoff Reports on the Week in Springfield

A press release from State Senator Pam Althoff in which the subhead I like best reads,
Permanent Spending/Temporary Revenues“:

Senate Week in Review: March 4-8, 2013

Springfield, Ill. – In his annual budget message delivered March 6, Gov. Pat Quinn laid out a $35.6 billion General Funds spending proposal for the coming year.

Once again, the Governor proposed a budget that relies on temporary revenues to fund permanent government services State Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-Crystal Lake) said, explaining that the budget builds in expenditures based on the income tax increase that is set to expire in 2015.

Permanent Spending/Temporary Revenues

The practice of building long-term spending increases into budgets using short-term revenues has been characteristic of both Quinn and his former running mate, imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Although the temporary tax hike adopted by Quinn and his fellow Democrats in 2011 was sold to the public as a means of paying off the state’s backlog of bills, it has instead been used to fund ongoing state expenses, even as the bill backlog continues to climb.

Illinois owes $1.6 billion more in unpaid bills today than when the tax hike was adopted.

Pam Althoff and Mike Tryon

Pam Althoff and Mike Tryon

Education on the Chopping Block

The Governor’s budget takes deep swipes at education funding in Illinois, both at the local school level and at public universities and community colleges. By making significant reductions in a politically- and publicly-sensitive policy area like education, Althoff said the cuts were an obvious attempt to build political pressure for pension reform.

Yet, the biggest challenge to achieving pension reform in Illinois is not a lack of pressure, but instead a lack of leadership from the Governor.

While Quinn has offered vocal support for the concept of pension reform, he has neither produced his own plan nor rounded up votes for other plans.

Group: Quinn’s Job to Make Pension Reform Happen

As the non-partisan “Reboot Illinois” noted the day after the speech, “…as governor, it’s Quinn’s job to make it happen. So far, Quinn has a slim record of success in walking delicate and difficult legislation through the legislature’s political minefield.”

The Governor’s Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) proposal for Illinois’ operating budget totals $62.4 billion. Of that amount, $31.2 billion originates from General Funds. Included in this number is a $929 million increase for the state’s pension payment.

When spending items such as debt service payments and other statutory transfers are accounted for, total FY14 General Funds spending in this plan reaches $35.6 billion. This level of General Funds spending represents an increase of $1.2 billion over FY13.

Senate Republicans Offer Detailed Analysis

To encourage public participation in the budget process, Senate Republicans have made their own detailed internal analysis available to the public on their Web site

Gambling Expansion

In the speech, Quinn also opened the door to a gambling expansion. Within hours, supporters pushed a major gambling bill through the Senate’s Executive Committee, clearing the way for a vote before the full Senate. The measure would authorize a casino in Chicago, open the state up to Internet gambling, allow slot machines at horse racing tracks and allow four new casinos or riverboats in cities outside Chicago.

Details of Proposed Gambling Expansion

The proposed gambling expansion is contained in Senate Bill 1739 and includes the following major provisions:

  • Chicago Casino: Creates a “Chicago Casino Development Authority,” which would be granted a license for a 4,000-position Chicago casino. The Authority would be run by a five-member board appointed by the mayor of Chicago and vetted by the Illinois Gaming Board. The Authority would also be able to offer slot machines at O’Hare and Midway airports.
  • Internet Gambling: Authorizes Internet-based gambling, including Internet poker. Internet gambling would be limited to persons older than 21 and wagers could be accepted only within Illinois.
  • Slot Machines at Horse Tracks: Allows for electronic gambling, including slot machines, at the state’s six racetracks – Arlington Park, Hawthorne, Maywood, Balmoral, Fairmont and Quad City Downs.
    New Riverboats/Casinos: Authorizes four new riverboats or casinos in Rockford, Danville, Lake County and Southern Cook County. Each would be allowed up to 1,200 gambling positions.
  • Campaign Contribution Ban: Prohibits gambling licensees (including terminal operators from video gambling) and their affiliated entities (includes horse racing associations) from making political contributions to officeholders and candidates for the following offices:
    • State Constitutional Officers
    • General Assembly
    • county or municipal officeholders
    • candidates where a gambling facility is located or proposed
    • county or municipal officeholders and candidates where the county or municipality receives gambling revenue

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