Gov. Pritzker optimistic he’ll get his legislative wish list

CHICAGO — State lawmakers have four weeks to sort out differences over gambling expansion and the graduated tax constitutional amendment.

A sports betting bill is expected soon and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker is counting on it passing. His budget for the next fiscal year includes $200 million in new state revenue from sports betting licenses.

Democrats and Republicans said the General Assembly is close to an agreement on sports betting, but a Chicago casino is a different story.

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot and Mayor Rahm Emanuel both support having a casino.

“The city of Chicago supports sports wagering and the legalization of it within a comprehensive amendment that provides for a publicly owned Chicago casino license,” Derek Blaida, City of Chicago lobbyist, said.

Other cities and municipalities want in on a casino. Tom McNamara, the mayor of Rockford, said a casino in their town would provide hundreds of union construction jobs and permanent jobs.

The idea of a casino to generate revenue is not new. Regional differences have slowed attempts to expand gaming in Illinois. Pritzker said he doesn’t want “regional disputes” to upend the process.

When asked if he backs a Chicago casino, Pritzker said that what he is focused on is making sure lawmakers maximize the opportunity to balance the budget.

Republican State Sen. Jason Barickman said there could be GOP votes for expanded gaming.

“Historically, gaming has received bipartisan support. I do believe that’s possible this year. But it would have to be comprehensive,” he said.

On taxes, the House is set to take up a constitutional amendment moving the state to a graduated income tax.

The Senate passed the measure this week, along with proposed tax increases that would go into effect only if voters also approve the constitutional change.

“I’m excited that it's going to the House now, and I'm very confident about our ability to get it through the House,” Pritzker said.

Sen. Barickman and his Republican Senate colleagues voted against the amendment.

“Our concerns is it makes it easier to pass tax increases in the future,” he said.

To try to sway Republicans, Democrats passed a property tax freeze but the constitutional amendment would have to be ratified and state would need to boost funding for schools. Republicans call the Democratic proposal a political stunt.

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