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Lightfoot says tax hike possible after state Democrats pass on property tax change

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Mayor Lori Lightfoot characterized her trip to Springfield as “productive” Tuesday, but the prospects that lawmakers will pass her legislative agenda seem to be in doubt.

The mayor is seeking changes to the Chicago casino tax structure and permission to seek a graduated real estate transfer tax.
The casino is a work-in-progress, but the real estate transfer tax looks dead.

Lightfoot was counting on the tax to raise $50 million, but Republicans didn’t want it and some progressive Democrats only liked it if the money was designated for programs to help the homeless.

"It was my belief that they should have just got that passed in Springfield, sent it to City Council and lived to fight another day but they chose to kill that bill here; Chicago legislators," said Rep La ShawnFord (D-Chicago).

On the casino, Governor Pritzker said he trying to help the mayor.

"It’s very important to us to try and get this gaming bill through to make sure that we can open a Chicago casino. It’s good for the city. It’s good for the state," Pritzker said.

The tax is needed to fill a massive budget gap, so now the mayor says she may have to turn to Plan B: cuts and raising property taxes.

"Our focus has been on trying to avoid a property tax increase if that’s necessary, so we put an alternative in depending on what happens here; but it’s a series of cuts," Lightfoot said.

Speaker Mike Madigan escorted Lightfoot to a meeting of House Democrats Tuesday, where she asked for help.

"I thought she did very well in advocacy for the position of the city," Madigan said.

But Lightfoot still may leave empty-handed, telling Democratic lawmakers if they don’t help her she may have to raise taxes.

Before session wraps up, Republicans want to pass sweeping ethics reform.

They’re proposing banning lawmakers from lobbying cities and counties, filling legislative vacancies through special elections, disclosure of contract talks between lawmakers and state agencies and more inspector general independence.

The proposal comes amid a series of federal public corruption investigations involving Democrats.

Federal investigators indicted State Senator Tom Cullerton in an alleged ghost payrolling scheme. Sen Martin Sandoval’s offices were raided, former Representative Luis Arroyo charged with bribery and associates of Speaker Madigan have been raided.

"The legislature should not be sent home until we’ve made meaningful strides to improve ethics," said Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria).

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