SPRINGFIELD — Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot on Thursday pressed Illinois Senate leaders about her key priority — the “magnitude” of the city’s finances — on Day 2 of a visit to the state capital.
After attending a breakfast with members of the black, Latino, women’s and progressive caucuses at a nearby hotel, Lightfoot met with Illinois Senate President John Cullerton before addressing lawmakers on the Senate floor. She later met with Illinois Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady.
On the Senate floor, the mayor-elect echoed a sentiment of unity that she also pledged to House lawmakers on Wednesday. And she credited the Illinois Senate for moving forward a resolution that would remove the flat income tax structure from the state’s constitution: “This is the kind of bold change that I hope we will make together.”
The resolution — the first major step in enacting a graduated income tax — was approved in a Senate committee on Wednesday. The Senate plans a third reading of the resolution on Friday, with hopes to vote on it when legislators return from a two-week break.
Asked by reporters how the city will unwind from a pension disaster and bring in new revenue to support itself, Lightfoot tiptoed around specifics. Of a state gas tax that is being considered as part of a state capital plan, Lightfoot noted she is “following” developments.
“We are following it and will continue to follow it really closely. Both to make sure that we’ve got a realistic and sustainable funding source, but also the projects are really important,” Lightfoot said. “Chicago stands to benefit significantly, as does the rest of the state, from having a capital bill which hasn’t been in play, I think for 10 years. We’re going to look at what the options are and weigh in as appropriate as the legislation moves through the General Assembly.”
Lightfoot’s Springfield agenda includes a push for expanded gambling to provide more revenue for the city, and that includes a Chicago casino. The mayor-elect said it’s time to have “serious conversations” about it.
“The sad reality is if we don’t do something about this, we’re going to continue to lose tens of millions of dollars every single year to Indiana and Wisconsin. And that makes no sense to me,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got to have serious conversations about a casino in the city of Chicago and elsewhere.”
Lightfoot said she “can’t wait until May 20 to start addressing” some of the city’s most pressing issues, referring to the day she will be sworn in.
“We’ve started these initial conversations, and there’s a lot more to continue, but I’m being very candid and forthcoming with them about the magnitude of the financial challenges we face in the city, which are significant,” Lightfoot said of her meetings with legislative leaders.
Lightfoot also said Chicago can’t rely on Springfield to solve its gun violence problem.
“The violence I think is something that we’ve got to take on [our] own as a city. I don’t think we need to in the short term look to Springfield to solve that problem,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve just got to do better, both from an investment standpoint, but also from a policing standpoint.”
Lightfoot — who received a small bust of Abraham Lincoln from Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder earlier on Thursday — said she hadn’t been to Springfield “in a while.”
“I have a feeling I’ll be here with some frequency,” she said.