Quinn: Pension reform before gambling expansion
Efforts by the legislature to expand casino gambling to Chicago and other locations is a secondary issue behind attempts to deal with the state’s unfunded pension liability, Gov. Pat Quinn said Tuesday.
The Democratic governor’s comments drew a rebuke from state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, a major supporter of expanded gambling. Lang contended Quinn was treating the issue “as if it’s some toy we’re playing with and he’s going to withhold toys from children until they eat their vegetables.”
Quinn, speaking to reporters after appearing at an unrelated event, called gambling a “secondary issue to the most paramount issue we have to face and that’s the whole pension reform.” A day earlier, on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight,” Quinn likened pension reform to some lawmakers as having “to eat our spinach and our Brussels sprouts and everything else before you can have any kind of dessert like gambling.”
Quinn has previously vetoed one measure to bring casino gambling to Chicago and four other locations and to legalize video slot machines at horseracing tracks. A similar bill moved to his desk last week after a parliamentary move was used a year ago that kept him from a quick veto. Still, Quinn has said the bill “doesn’t measure up” in resolving his ethical concerns.
Quinn said for any gambling expansion to win his approval, “the state of Illinois and the people of Illinois have to be treated fairly” in terms of gaining the maximum amount of tax revenue for state government.
Though Mayor Rahm Emanuel has backed a Chicago casino as a new revenue source for the city, gambling expansion has languished due to Quinn’s opposition. At the same time, efforts to resolve the state’s $96.8 billion unfunded public employee pension liability also have gone nowhere despite Quinn’s prodding for lawmakers to act.
“I certainly agree that the most significant problem we have in the state is dealing with our pension system and I agree we have to get to the bottom of that,” Lang said. “But the Illinois General Assembly is quite capable of doing more than one thing at a time.”