The Illinois General Assembly’s 2011 veto session was supposed to end Thursday, but an extra day – November 29 – was tacked on after an impasse on big tax break legislation for financial exchanges.
The Illinois General Assembly’s 2011 veto session was supposed to end
Thursday, but an extra day – November 29 – was tacked on after an impasse
on big tax break legislation for financial exchanges. Also unresolved:
the fate of pension and gaming legislation, though both items –
especially the pension bill – likely won’t be dealt with November 29.
The only major legislation that did pass was a bill that lets Chicago use red light camera to catch speeders near schools and parks.
The six-day veto session is a clearinghouse for key legislation considered during the year that hasn’t become law. But the focus abruptly shifted to tax break demands from financial exchanges CME Group, Inc. and CBOE Holdings, Inc.
CME controls the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Terry Duffy, executive chairman of CME, says that the company would bolt from Illinois unless the state starts taxing only Illinois-based transactions.
A tax break for a handsomely profitable financial exchange isn’t a great way to tap into public anger about the economy and specific concerns with the state budget.
So Gov. Pat Quinn and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie of Chicago added on to the bill an expansion of the earned-income tax credit. Also included, though, were further corporate tax breaks for Sears and various other measures. By the end, the bill had an $800 million annual price tag.
Lawmakers now get a couple of weeks to revise the package.
“We’re still working on it,” says Currie, the bill’s sponsor. “The legislature is holding three hearings – the 16th, the 18th, and one a week after that.”
Currie doesn’t know what to make of Duffy’s threats that CME Group leaves without a tax cut. “Some [lawmakers] are taking that very seriously and others are not,” she says. “I don’t know how seriously to take it. I’m kind of curious see what kind of additional information we can collect.”
Lang dealt bad hand
Meanwhile, the House on Wednesday voted against a gambling expansion bill that includes a publicly-owned Chicago casino. The House and Senate approved a similar measure back in May, but Rep. Lou Lang, the bill's author, scaled back the expansion in hopes of avoiding a gubernatorial veto.
It’s not clear if Lang, who represents Skokie, and Quinn will ever reach an agreement. The governor says he won’t support a bill with slot machines in racetracks. Lang says he won’t write such a bill because he would lose rural lawmakers who like gambling expansion precisely because of revenues from racetrack slot machines.
Lang says he will try again with the package – perhaps November 29 or perhaps in 2012 – and the new bill will probably originate in the Senate this time. “I can assure you that our energy level has not waned,” Lang says. “What the governor will do with it [the new bill], the governor will with it.”
Pension bill: The news is no news
For public employee unions, the focus of the veto session is staving off a bill that tries to close the state’s $85 billion in pension obligation debts. The bill gives employees a choice of sharply decreased benefits, sharply increased contributions or enrolling in a self-managed retirement plan akin to a 401(K).
The bill passed a House committee in May, but was not taken up by the full House. This week, Rep. Tom Cross, the House minority leader, caused a stir by introducing a modified version – and that version also passed committee.
But once again Cross and House Speaker Mike Madigan didn’t bring it to the floor for a full vote.
“Our conversations leading up the veto session suggested that the dynamics around the bill hadn’t changed,” says Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME Local-31 and part of the We Are One coalition of unions opposing the bill. “And the fundamentals of the revised bill are no different.”
The bill that did get through the House this week was legislation that would use red light cameras to catch speeders, a measure that had already passed the Senate. Rahm Emanuel urged the General Assembly to pass it – citing the individual tragedy of a child killed near school by a speeding driver.
The city council can vote to implement the measure any time after July 2012. However, Pat Quinn might veto it: The governor hasn’t indicated his thoughts on the measure.
The bill could add to Chicago’s arsenal of cameras. Already the city has the largest automated traffic policing system in the country. And while more speeding tickets might produce more city revenue, an Illinois PIRG study suggests that the real beneficiary could be Redflex Traffic Systems, the private contractor that makes the cameras.