Ill. lawmakers battle over budget crisis

May 6, 2010 8:50:48 PM PDT
A $1 a pack tax increase for cigarettes is gaining in popularity with Illinois lawmakers who are still trying to close a $13 billion budget deficit in the state budget.

Proponents say the increase in the state cigarette tax would raise $320 million for public schools.

"Without this $320 million, special ed, transportation, all those categorical items would be looking at a 15 to 20 percent reduction," said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie.

"If a tax is enacted, small business retailers of tobacco products will lose 20 percent of their sales in the first year," said Bill Fleischli, tobacco lobbyist.

Another possible revenue source under re-consideration are slot machines at race tracks.

Meanwhile, there are deep divisions along party lines on bills to borrow billions of dollars.

"I see the Democrats doing what they've done the last couple of sessions and that is having band aids and more borrowing," said Sen. Kirk Dillard, (R) Hinsdale.

"I think its critical we make hard or tough decisions right now, even in this crisis...to borrow money if we have to, absolutely," said Rep. Ken Dunkin, (D) Chicago.

On Wednesday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Senator Bill Brady lobbied House Republicans to vote against a failed bill to borrow money to pay pensions for state workers.

"I don't think we should play politics with pensions. I'm disappointed at Senator Brady for doing that," said Gov. Pat. Quinn.

"I will do everything I can to prohibit him from digging a deeper hole, putting debt on the backs of children and grandchildren," said Sen. Bill Brady, (R) candidate for governor.

Also Thursday, as a ceremony honoring police officers killed in the line of duty was held outside the capitol, lawmakers considered legislation to reduce pension benefits for public safety workers hired in the future.

"Remember, we gave state police a two-tiered system, prison guards a two-tiered system. They are also people that have very special responsibilities," said Sen. Christine Radogno, (R) Senate minority leader.

"I honor the sacrifice of all of our police and firefighters. And as long as I'm governor, we're not going to shortchange them for their heroic life of service," said Quinn.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president Mark Donahue who was in Springfield for the memorial service would not comment on the pension reform bill that is pending. He says that the two-thirds pension plan would affect members of his union and he doesn't want that to happen.

ABC7 has learned that there has been a deal struck for reforms at Chicago's McCormick Place that would make it more competitive with convention centers in Las Vegas and Orlando. The deal has to be approved by the House and Senate on the floor.


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