Illinois lawmakers wrap up 1st veto session week

Associated Press
Illinois Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, argues legislation while on the House floor during veto session at the Illinois State Capitol Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011 in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
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Illinois Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, argues legislation while on the House floor during veto …

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers wrapped up a testy first week of the fall session on Thursday after dealing setbacks to Gov. Pat Quinn, delaying action on gambling and leaving regional superintendents to wonder if they'll ever get paid again.

In the session's final week, lawmakers will face a series of tough decisions: Whether to expand gambling, how to pay superintendents, whether to offer tax breaks for Chicago's major financial exchanges and more

The Illinois House rejected a plan Thursday that would have restored pay for regional school superintendents by dipping into a local tax. That was the idea favored by Gov. Pat Quinn, who eliminated their pay in July because he said the state couldn't afford the $11 million for them and their assistants. The 59-55 vote fell short of the required 71 votes to pass but Rep. Frank Mautino, a Spring Valley Democrat, is allowed to call it again.

Mautino said if lawmakers don't act this fall, the superintendents in Illinois' 44 regional offices of education may be forced to quit. Their responsibilities range from inspecting school buildings to certifying teachers to running GED programs.

"It is an embarrassing situation," Mautino said.

Republican Roger Eddy of Hutsonville had harsh words for Quinn and he led the House chamber in a round of applause for superintendents who are "keeping their oath of office since July 1 without a paycheck."

"Shame on you, governor, for putting these people in this situation," Eddy said.

Lawmakers also postponed action on a gambling expansion bill based on Quinn's ideas. He has threatened to veto legislation already passed by lawmakers that would allow slot machines at racetracks in addition to adding five new casinos in the state, including one in Chicago. Quinn has said he can support five new casinos but not slots at tracks. Many lawmakers have said a gambling expansion bill without slots at the tracks can't pass.

A Senate committee debated a bill based on Quinn's suggestions but didn't move it to the Senate floor for a vote after Quinn criticized the proposal as not a serious effort to address his concerns about gambling expansion.

Senate President John Cullerton said he plans to talk to Quinn about gambling expansion before lawmakers return to Springfield Nov. 8.

"See if we can narrow the differences," Cullerton said.

The Chicago Democrat said it was important to put Quinn's framework into bill form so they have something to negotiate instead of just ideas Quinn shared at a Chicago news conference when he unveiled his framework for gambling expansion he could accept.

Quinn didn't like what lawmakers turned out.

"Governor Quinn looks forward to moving past the political games and towards sincere negotiations to reach a legitimate proposal that meets the framework he laid out to protect the interests of the people of Illinois," his spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, said about lawmakers' efforts.

Democratic Sen. Ira Silverstein said he wants Quinn's office to actually draft a bill that specifically lays what he wants to see in a gambling expansion plan.

"Then we can start negotiating. Like this, it's really a joke, one big game," he said.

The idea of cutting taxes for Chicago financial exchanges to keep them from leaving Illinois is also on the table when lawmakers return to work.

The legislation cleared a Senate committee Thursday but wasn't called to the Senate floor for a vote. Lawmakers want to do some more work on it, and they say Quinn hasn't committed to signing it

Cullerton is pushing the measure to tweak how electronic financial transactions are taxed to give relief to the CME Group Inc., which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, and CBOE Holdings Inc., which operates the Chicago Board Options Exchange.

Cullerton said Illinois unfairly calculates their tax based on electronic transactions. Although he acknowledged that making changes will cost the state revenue, he said the situation would be exacerbated if the exchanges left.

Some Senate Republicans want the bill to help the exchanges broadened to help more businesses after Illinois' recent income tax increase.

"This looks like another corporate bailout," said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Charleston.

Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno of Lemont said the exchanges have a legitimate problem that needs to be fixed so that Illinois' tax law catches up with technological advances in business. But Radogno said lawmakers need to spend more time working on a measure with broader relief for other businesses. She said small and medium-sized businesses in the state provide more jobs than the exchanges.

"Partner with us and help us get a more broad-based package, help get the governor on board for that," she said.

Lawmakers started to tackle pension reform but will have more work to do when they return.

The House voted Thursday to prevent public employees who serve in union positions from collecting pensions from both the government and the union. House Republican leader Tom Cross is still working on a larger pension reform package that unions don't like, which he hopes lawmakers will vote on when they return.

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