House OKs budget, but Lightfoot calls gambling proposal a losing hand

And late Friday, the Illinois Senate passed the Reproductive Health Act, sending the bill to expand and protect abortion rights to the governor’s desk.

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House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and House Speaker Mike Madigan talk on the House floor

Photo by Tina Sfondeles.

SPRINGFIELD — Legislators unveiled a whopping $40.6 billion spending plan on Friday — alongside the details of a capital proposal funded in part by expanded gambling.

And Senate Democrats sent a big political message in the waning hours of the day, clearing an abortion measure that will codify current state laws should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

But even as the House signed off on the budget late Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot threatened to fold her hand on the already shaky gambling deal — objecting to a provision to allow sports betting at sports venues such as Soldier Field.

The budget came in an avalanche of information — thousands of pages — and legislative leaders were behind closed doors with Gov. J.B. Pritzker during several meetings on Friday to try to square away differences.

And after just 10 minutes of debate, the Illinois House cleared the comprehensive budget plan 83-35. That came after hours of negotiations and House Speaker Mike Madigan telling lawmakers they’d be in session “at least through Sunday.”

By about 9:45 p.m., Madigan called it a “bipartisan budget bill in coordination with [Illinois House Republican] Leader [Jim] Durkin.

“The work of this House is not done. We have adjourned for tonight and will return tomorrow to continue working in a bipartisan manner to finish the remaining work of the General Assembly,” the speaker said in a statement.

During the short debate, Durkin called the budget plan “a start of us closing up this year working on a budget that’s balanced that doesn’t do harm to Illinoisans and to our businesses and to to the taxpayers of Illinois.”

The Illinois Senate at 12:25 a.m. on Saturday also approved the operating budget bill with a 40-19 vote, sending it on its way to the governor. The Senate also quickly passed a revenue bill for the capital plan to fund roads and bridges.

But before taking up capital and budget bills, the Senate first approved the abortion measure with a 34-20 vote after an emotional and lengthy debate. The Reproductive Health Act now heads to Pritzker, who will sign it. The legislation was accelerated in response to abortion bans in other states and would codify current practices should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

Pritzker issued a statement after the bill passed, saying that “in Illinois, we trust women to make the most personal and fundamental decisions of their lives.”

In tears, State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said she has received deaths threats, “wishing that I burn and die on my way home,” over her sponsorship of the measure.

“For those of you, I’m sorry, that don’t have a uterus, I’ve got to tell you to make that decision, that is not an easy decision,” Bush said. “That’s not something that any woman makes without tremendous difficulty and pain, nor something she ever forgets. But it’s not your right, nor mine to tell her that that’s what she should do. It’s her right to make that choice.”

Things could get tricky come Saturday if legislators have to vote on the capital plan Saturday or Sunday: they’ll need a supermajority to clear the measures. That arithmetic is no problem for the Democrats, but the politics could be.

The House appropriations measure includes $375 million for elementary and secondary education through the evidence-based school formula, which House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said is about $25 million more than was requested by the governor. The budget also includes $450 million for MAP grants.

About $1.4 billion of the spending plan would go to help pay for the state’s backlog of bills. Of that amount, $1.2 billion would be paid through a bond issuance.

Earlier Friday, a Senate committee cleared a measure that provides funding for a capital plan. It included $1.2 billion in revenue for increasing the motor fuel tax by 19 cents; $475 million with a $50 increase to vehicle registration fees; $4 million from a $233 increase to the registration fees for electric vehicles; $146 million from an increase in title registration fees; $50 million from a $100 increase to truck registrations and $78 million from a 5-cent increase for diesel fuel.

For vertical projects within the plan — which include buildings, such as schools and recreational facilities, rather than roads or bridges — $150 million would come from an increase in video gaming terminal taxes; $10 million from sports wagering revenue; $500 million from upfront license fees from casino and sports betting; $30 million from a tax on parking garages and lots; $68 million from an increase on the real estate transfer tax on commercial properties; $45 million from removing the sales tax exemption on traded-in property valued above $10,000; and $156 million from an increase on the cigarette tax by $1 per pack.

And during a House Executive Committee, lawmakers cleared a gambling proposal that would add six casinos in Chicago, Waukegan, the south suburbs, Williamson County in southern Illinois, Rockford in northern Illinois and Danville in the state’s east-central region.

The Chicago casino would be able to have up to 4,000 gambling positions — three times more than any other casino in the state currently has — and slot machines would be allowed at O’Hare and Midway airports. Bill sponsor State Rep. Bob Rita said money from the proposed Chicago casino would be split in thirds among the city, state and the private owner.

But Lightfoot issued a statement saying that while she wants a Chicago casino, she doesn’t support sports wagering at places like Soldier Field.

”I strongly support a gaming bill that directs a new casino and dollars to the city of Chicago. However, I oppose the inclusion of a provision that would open up sports wagering in venues like Soldier Field,” Lightfoot said. “Such a proposal has the potential to undermine the viability of any Chicago-based casino through the diversion of customers and revenue from a casino. Because the impact of sports wagering in stadiums has not been fully vetted or analyzed, I cannot support the bill in its current form and urge the deletion of this stadium-betting provision.”

Video gambling machines would be OK’d for larger truck stops. The Illinois Gaming Board would have oversight of regulating the Chicago casino, which would be privately run with revenue evenly split between the operator, the city and the state.

The bill also includes a changed version of a “penalty box” for fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel. Casinos, sports venues and tracks would be able to offer sports betting as soon as they’re licensed. For the first 18 months, they could offer online betting but deposits would have to be made at the facilities.

After 18 months, three online licenses would be opened up and sports betting would be offered at licensed gaming facilities and online. The fantasy players can get in at the beginning but only in partnership with another licensee, such as a casino sports book sponsored by one of the fantasy sports sites.

The House budget bill also includes a provision sought by the developer of the proposed One Central project near Soldier Field. It would allow the state to enter a partnership with the developer to build a $3.8 billion transit hub to serve the commercial and residential project, which could see a cluster of high-rises built over Metra tracks.

The state eventually would pay the developer for part of the cost once the hub starts generating tax revenue. The legislation said the state will pay nothing before fiscal year 2024 or before the hub is finished. It allows the partnership to seek a federal loan. One federal program could provide up to $1 billion in backing.

“It does not obligate us to do anything and it comes to us with no cost,” Harris said. “The full risk is on the developer.”

Contributing: Dave Roeder

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