(Springfield, IL) — April 29, 2010. Organized labor leaders and State Rep. Will Burns (D-Chicago) today gave a public push at a press conference in Springfield to legislation that would permit slot machines at the state’s horse racing facilities.
The plan, House Bill 5975, would generate an estimated $100 million to $300 million annually that would be deposited into the state’s Capital Project Fund to pay for planned school, road and bridge construction projects in the pipeline, according to Burns.
“This plan is the key to providing the revenue we need to keep those projects on track–and to putting our men and women back to work as quickly as possible,” said Burns, who is seeking to replace Alderman Toni Preckwinkle in the Chicago City Council should Preckwinkle win the race for Cook County Board President in November.
Multiple communities throughout Illinois have rejected video gaming, a key revenue source for the $31 billion capital construction bill that Governor Pat Quinn signed last July, which would provide approximately 30% of the bill’s funding.
Burns’ plan is backed by both business and organized labor groups, including the Illinois AFL-CIO, Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council, Teamsters Joint Council 25, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 and the Service Employees International Union Local 1.
“The Illinois AFL-CIO fought long and hard for 12-years to get a capital plan passed,” said Michael Carrigan, AFL-CIO President. “Now we are fighting to keep the funding in place so our construction crews can go to work.”
Installation of slot machines at the tracks would create an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 permanent jobs, plus an estimated capital investment of up to $200 million to $400 million at the designated tracks.
“There’s a simple reason that organized labor is firmly behind the plan,” said State Senator Donne Trotter (D-Chicago). “They recognize the potential for this plan to create many short-term construction jobs while at the same time supporting long-term, permanent jobs.”
Despite the job creation payoff, a potential back-stop as a revenue source for Quinn’s capital bill, a cash-gusher for the tracks, and boosted purses for the horses, the track owners and the assorted horsemen groups have been unable to agree over provisions that divide the anticipated revenues and, as a result, the bill has stalled politically, according to well placed sources.
Unless they cobble together an agreed bill, Burns’ measure is unlikely win House approval.
Additionally, politically, gaming expansion is unpopular among some Illinois voters which gives many lawmakers pause. For example, in southern Illinois, 54% of voters oppose an expansion of legalized gambling, according to a new poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
In addition to Burns, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers back his plan in both the Senate and House, including: State Rep. Mark Beaubien (R-Barrington), State Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), State Rep. JoAnn Osmond (R-Antioch), State Rep. Thomas Holbrook (D-Belleville), State Senator John O. Jones (R-Mt. Vernon), and Trotter.
Given that legislative leaders and the Governor are rumored to have agreed to adjourn on May 7 but to continue to work on a final budget before May 31, Burns still has time to get everyone on board.