The casino question returns
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org November 26, 2012 4:02PM
State Sen. Pat McGuire
Updated: December 28, 2012 6:19AM
It’s that time of year again when Joliet city officials look to Springfield to see how close legislators may come to jeopardizing a key revenue source — local casino taxes.
The state Legislature meets Tuesday for a short session when it will consider whether to override the governor’s vetoes on casino expansion and other matters.
Worries about casino expansion prompted some Joliet council members last week to question the wisdom of a 10-year extension of an agreement with the Joliet Area Historical Museum that promises $200,000 a year in city support.
The council agreed to extend the contract. But it was a divided vote in which some council members suggested that the length of the agreement should be shortened in light of such economic uncertainties as future casino tax dollars.
Casino expansion “is something everybody’s thinking about,” said Councilman Larry Hug, who wanted a one-year agreement with the museum. “It would be a huge hit.”
$5 million hit
Joliet officials have estimated that a new south suburban casino and slot machines at horse racetracks would cost the city about $5 million a year, or roughly a quarter of the local share of casino tax dollars in 2012.
State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, said he does not expect an override vote on the casino bill this week.
Walsh said he talked with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, on Sunday, and, “I’m sure he’s trying to get a count on where his votes are.”
That still leaves open the possibility of the Legislature coming up with a new casino bill in the lame-duck session in early January or after a new Legislature is seated Jan. 9.
If Democratic leaders support a casino bill, they will have a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate.
Legislators, however, do not tend to vote along straight party lines.
Both Walsh and state Sen. Patrick McGuire, D-Joliet, voted against the vetoed bill because it would have added the casino in the south suburbs.
McGuire said he had breakfast Monday with Melinda Bush, a newly elected Democratic senator from Lake County. Although Lake County would get a new casino under the bill vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn, Bush has been critical of the state becoming too dependent on gambling dollars.
He did not want to speak for Bush, McGuire said, but, “She’s cautious about gambling expansion.”
McGuire said he would learn more Tuesday during a Democratic Party caucus about what might be coming next on casino expansion.