Here’s a few highlights of Topinka’s budget proposal which will be unveiled soon. Check back for more updates.
Chicago casino - 3,000 slots.
3,000 slots for existing boats
Two years of property tax freeze on portion of property tax for education.
$100 million more for higher education for tuition relief.
Additional Corrections workers, full-funded pensions.
[Full JBT press release is here… Blagojevich campaign official response is here - both are “pdf” files]
Topinka contended her plan would not be an expansion of gambling, largely opposed by her fellow Republicans, because it would use the state’s only unused casino license for Chicago. […]
But Topinka’s proposal would not satisfy one of Daley’s major caveats for having a Chicago gambling operationâ€”that the city own the casino. Instead, Topinka’s plan would require Chicago’s casino to be owned by a private business as are the state’s nine operating casinos. […]
Her plan would use $2.4 billion in state funds to make up for any property tax increases that local school districts wouldn’t receive… Topinka does not favor raising the state income tax to reduce local property taxes. […]
The Topinka campaign estimates that bidding on ownership of a Chicago casino could reap at least $650 million in up-front cash, but could exceed $1 billion. For four years, the campaign said, the state would make $2.4 billion through increased gambling positions on casinos, $1.9 million from a Chicago casino, $200 million through higher licensing fees and another $600 million from related taxes, such as food and sales levies indirectly associated with gaming. In addition, her revenue plan counts on receiving a $1.8 billion federal block grant for the state to change its Medicaid program, including tighter eligibility rules, and another $700 million in income and sales tax growth through an increase of 15,000 jobs over the next four years. Topinka’s campaign said Chicago would receive at least $50 million in new revenues directly through a casino. They called all of their revenue estimates for a Chicago casino “conservative,” saying they were almost identical to those used by Daley in trying to seek a city casino. The campaign said its revenue plan would fully fund other proposals that Topinka has unveiled during the campaign, including a capping of state sales taxes on gasoline after it exceeds $2.50 a gallon; business tax incentives for job creation, bonding for new school construction and an increased tax credit for teachers who purchase their own school supplies.
UPDATE 2: Topinka press release:
Other highlights of the plan include:
* No tax increases.
* Billions in budget cuts including pork projects in the state budget and political jobs.
* Full funding of state pension obligations.
* Gas tax relief in the form of Topinkaâ€™s proposal to cap the sales tax on gas at $2.50
This plan also provides critical funding in the following areas:
* Tuition relief for students at colleges and universities - $950 million for higher education entities throughout the state
* $2 billion road program to expand and maintain Illinois roads, bridges and state facilities.
* $3 billion to build new safe and modern classrooms throughout Illinois.
The plan eliminates the raids on dedicated state funds and provides new resources for public safety, veterans, state parks, as the state will build up the stateâ€™s cash reserve. […]
Illinois schools will continue to realize additional revenues as if property tax collections were not frozen, and no school district will lose funds due to this proposal. The combination of the freeze and new state revenues will provide more than $2 billion in tax relief to Illinois taxpayers. […]
The Topinka-Birkett plan also calls for integrity at the Illinois Gaming Board. Reform proposals include:
Gaming Board Independence
The Illinois Gaming Board (the â€œIGBâ€) should be an independent entity, separate and apart from the Illinois Department of Revenue, or any other State agency.
Gaming Integrity Unit - Establish Independent Gaming Board investigators
The Illinois Gaming Board will hire its own investigative officers, known as the Gaming Integrity Unit, and the unit members shall be provided with all appropriate police powers.
The IGB should be free to regulate casino gaming in Illinois without political influence
Prohibit gaming lobbyists from having any contact with Gaming Board employees or
Governorâ€™s Office employees regarding employment at Illinois Gaming Board.
New Qualifications and Eligibility for members of the Illinois Gaming Board
â€¢ No person holding any elective office or any officer or official of any political party is eligible for appointment to the Board.
â€¢ Not more than three members of the Board shall be of the same political party affiliation.
Gaming Board Integrity
The IGB should be empowered to investigate allegations of improper political influence, including political influence in the process of awarding a license. […]
I’ll post the full release in a few minutes. There’s quite a bit more.
UPDATE 3: I have posted the press release as a .pdf file
UPDATE 4: Crain’s:
One local civic leader, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce CEO Gerald Roper, said he is â€œvery, very positiveâ€ on the proposal for a Chicago casino. The chamber for years has pushed for a Chicago casino as a boost to the cityâ€™s convention and tourism business.
However, Mr. Roper noted that such proposals have made little progress in Springfield, in large part because of opposition from GOP legislators.
â€œI havenâ€™t been able to get one Republican to back us,â€ Mr. Roper said, adding that he does not know if Ms. Topinka has persuaded leaders of her party to switch their positions.
John Filanâ€™s, Mr. Blagojevichâ€™s budget director, is scheduled to respond to Ms. Topinkaâ€™s proposal later today.
Shouldn’t the governor have a campaign person respond to a campaign proposal, or did Filan leave state employment for a campaign job without telling us? [Hat tip to a commenter.]
UPDATE 5: The AP has a small placeholder story posted here. You can probably check that link in ten or fifteen minutes for the full story.
UPDATE 6: The AP piece is slightly longer now:
Topinka, currently the state treasurer, acknowledged that she has not been a proponent of gaming in the past.
But she maintained her proposal would not be an expansion of gambling in Illinois because the Chicago casino would be taking the spot of the state’s unused casino license. That license was previously held by the Emerald Casino, which intended to locate a gambling boat in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont.
UPDATE 7: More from the AP:
Topinka said she had discussed her proposal with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and he reacted “reasonably well,” but wanted to look at the plan further.
UPDATE 8: I’ll be on WYLL Radio with Dan Proft starting at about 3:20 to talk about this and other developments. You can listen on the Internet here.
UPDATE 9: Daily Herald:
The level of detail in Topinka’s four-year budget proposal was unusual for a governor’s campaign, but also required her to flip-flop on her previous opposition to gambling as a panacea for the state’s financial woes. It was a change in position Topinka acknowledged she was “not excited about” making.
A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich said the governor has expanded health care programs while balancing the budget deficit he inherited.
“After 25 years as an elected official and a year as a candidate for governor, it looks like Treasurer Topinka is finding that it is difficult to actually find funding for programs,” Blagojevich spokesman Doug Scofield said.
UPDATE 10: Tier One targeted Republican state Sen. Cheryl Axley comes out in support, suggesting JBT may have done her homework with the leaders on at least the suburban races. From a press release:
State Senator Cheryl Axley (R- Mt. Prospect) is applauding Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Judy Baar Topinka’s newly unveiled education and budget plan that would freeze suburban property taxes for two years, while providing more funds for school construction and classrooms.
“I’m excited at the prospect of property tax relief for my district, because it is one of the two top issues my constituents are concerned with,” Axley said. “The other is our poorly funded education system, and this plan addresses that problem as well. I’m heartened at the potential benefits this will have for my area. It is far past time the state took control of its spending and its responsibility to adequately fund schools without overburdening taxpayers. This is a step in that direction.”
Senator Axley says Topinka’s plan to provide college tuition relief is also vital.
“College tuition relief is a key component of this plan because the financial burden of sending our kids to school just keeps getting worse,” Axley said. ” As a mother of three teenagers, I share this struggle, so I hope this will be a way to make college more affordable.”
UPDATE 11: Topinka’s response to an anti-gambling group shows this was probably in the works for some time. There are no explicit mentions of a Chicago casino.
UPDATE 12: This excerpt from an e-mail I just received from a Blagojevich person likely gives us a preview of Filan’s statement.
…her proposals would do nothing more than gut health care, expand the size of government and add billions in unfunded new spending to our budget. We’re talking in the neighborhood of a 5 billion annual deficit — and maybe more.
UPDATE 13: The Blagojevich campaign already has an Internet ad up on the issue. Click the image to go straight to the .mov format ad. [Hat tip to a commenter.]
Our latest ad highlights the hypocrisy of Judy Baar Topinka in her own words on gambling expansion. Earlier this year during the Republican primary she said, “we shouldn’t be building on top of gambling in this state, or expanding gambling in this state. This is Illinois. It’s not Las Vegas. Ok?”
Yet she is now proposing to build a new, 3,000 slot casino in Chicago and expanding existing casinos to 3,000 slots as well, a complete reversal of her position in the primary. Can we trust anything she says anymore?
What’s she thinking?
UPDATE 14: Hizzoner is staying neutral on the two competing plans. That’s hugely good news for Topinka. If he had rejected it out of hand, she would’ve been sunk before she got out of the harbor. Apparently, the meeting between Topinka and Daley went better than she has admitted. More later. CBS2:
Daley is not taking a position on Topinka’s proposal to put a land-based casino in the city.
Daley says he doesn’t have a preference between Topinka’s plan and Governor Rod Blagojevich’s proposal to lease the lottery for education funds.
Daley says it would be unfair to say which one he preferred. He adds if either gets education money for the city, he wouldn’t care where it comes from.
UPDATE 15: I asked the governor’s campaign spokesperson, Sheila Nix, whether the governor still opposes a Chicago casino. Her answer? “Yes.”
UPDATE 16: Statement from Illinois Republican Party Executive Director John Tsarpalas:
“It’s troubling that Governor Blagojevich’s Budget Director, who is paid with taxpayer dollars, is standing up to react to the campaign announcement of Republican candidate for Governor Judy Baar Topinka. If the Blagojevich campaign wants to react to Judy’s plan, they should use the millions in ‘pay-to-play’ money collected in their campaign fund to pay for it. John Filan should tell taxpayers whether he is on leave from the Governor’s office or being paid with taxpayer dollars.”
UPDATE 17: E-mail from the Blagojevich campaign:
Filan told everyone there that he was taking a vacation day so JBTâ€™s campaign knows that — there is no question about taxpayer dollars. Also, since JBTâ€™s announcement was about the budget, it makes sense to have someone who really understands the numbers and process give an opinion on its credibility.
UPDATE 18: CBS2 has posted a viewer poll
UPDATE 19: Blagojevich press release (Or download a pdf file here):
…State Budget Director John Filan, detailed why her numbers didnâ€™t add up.
â€œHer budget numbers simply donâ€™t add up. Her budget plan would bring us back to a Ryan era deficit of $5 billion. Itâ€™s nothing short of budget fiction.â€
Breakdown of Topinkaâ€™s budget priorities:
Topinkaâ€™s Cuts Do NOT Cover Increased Spending Promises
Topinka Proposed Spending:
Education $2.05 billion
School Construction Debt Service $270 million
Funding Pension System (at 1995 Plan) $627 million
Rehiring State Employees $150 million
Pay Raises for Merit Comp Employees $33 million
Energy plan $60 million
Higher Education $100 million
Local Property Tax Reimbursement (2 years) $1.2 billion
Total New Spending $4.49 billion per year
Topinka Proposed Spending Cuts:
Cutting Healthcare to Kids and Seniors $(725) million
Topinkaâ€™s New Casino Revenues Donâ€™t Offset Revenue Shortfalls
Proposed Topinka Revenue:
Chicago Casino ($850 one time, $250 annual starts in year 2) $400 million
Additional Positions at existing casinos $350 million
Lost Revenue as a result of the Topinka Plan
Economic Development Plan (from Tax Credits) $(1.5) billion
Restore Corporate Fees/ $(408) million
Re-open Corporate Loopholes $(30) million
Lost Federal Revenue (from Medicaid Cuts) $(775) million
Total Revenue Losses $(2.713) billion
Topinka Deficit: $(5.728) billion per year
Treasurer Topinkaâ€™s spending priorities donâ€™t match with her proposed revenue plan. Her plan would be devastating for the working families of Illinois, increasing their taxes and cutting their services.