Capitol Fax.com - Your Illinois News Radar » This just in… Topinka to unveil budget plan - UPDATED x19 (Most intriguing update so far: Daley has kind words for JBT casino plan)
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This just in… Topinka to unveil budget plan - UPDATED x19 (Most intriguing update so far: Daley has kind words for JBT casino plan)

Wednesday, Aug 23, 2006

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]

UPDATE:Tribune:

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 operation—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 Topinka’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 state’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 “IGB”) 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

Governor’s Office employees regarding employment at Illinois Gaming Board.

New Qualifications and Eligibility for members of the Illinois Gaming Board

• No person holding any elective office or any officer or official of any political party is eligible for appointment to the Board.

• 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 “very, very positive” on the proposal for a Chicago casino. The chamber for years has pushed for a Chicago casino as a boost to the city’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.

“I haven’t been able to get one Republican to back us,” Mr. Roper said, adding that he does not know if Ms. Topinka has persuaded leaders of her party to switch their positions.

John Filan’s, Mr. Blagojevich’s budget director, is scheduled to respond to Ms. Topinka’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 JBT’s campaign knows that — there is no question about taxpayer dollars. Also, since JBT’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 didn’t add up.

“Her budget numbers simply don’t add up. Her budget plan would bring us back to a Ryan era deficit of $5 billion. It’s nothing short of budget fiction.”

Breakdown of Topinka’s budget priorities:

Topinka’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

Topinka’s New Casino Revenues Don’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
Eliminate Chargebacks
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 Topinka’s spending priorities don’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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

97 Comments
  1. - Squideshi - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:06 pm:

    Didn’t Blagojevich come up with the same lame plan way back in January? See this. Gambling is not the solution.


  2. - Gregor - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:08 pm:

    Not a fan of the gambling thing.


  3. - Southern Ilinois Democrat - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:09 pm:

    The conservatives are gonna love the gambling part. Is she purposefully trying to keep them home in November?


  4. - anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:15 pm:

    I think it’s a solid plan…like it or not, we already have gaming here in IL — the current school funding solution is a total scam under this administration. I applaud JBT for thinking outside the box. Besides, anything to relieve my property taxes is MOST welcome!


  5. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:15 pm:

    …and a chicken in every pot.

    I am conservative and don’t mind gambling. As a matter of fact, I am for taxing the corner dice games in the city. That is an excellent revenue source.

    When will they learn, as long as they keep increasing financial aid, the academiots will keep increasing tuition.


  6. - PalosParkBob - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:28 pm:

    This won’t pay for even a fraction of what she proposes for increased spending.

    Notice that she isn’t proposing ANY school spending reforms, such as furtherlimiting costly and unfair “end of career” salary increases in public education, requiring districts to secure a means to pay for raises and benefit increases before approving teacher and adminstrator contracts, and ending the ridiculously costly “early retirement option” that’s bankrupting the state coffers and pension funds?

    It’s pretty clear that her funding “secret” is that she’s going to support massive income and service taxes to dole out the bucks to gain more political clout.

    “Illinois First” George Ryan taught her well.


  7. - sam - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:30 pm:

    …outside of the box?

    This is as far inside the box as you can get. Over and over again - the magical casino comes to the rescue for all the state’s problems.

    Question: Given that the City would never go for a casino it doesn’t have ownership of — does this even count as a plan since it will never happen?


  8. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:32 pm:

    Rarely do challengers ever provide this much detail, and for good reason. Details get nitpicked to death.


  9. - sam - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:36 pm:

    You’re right rich.

    Once someone asks Daley about the casino, and he says again it will never happen, then she is screwed.

    She has now tied everything she is running on to a plan that is destined to fail in less than a week - just because she was scared she wasn’t giving enough details.


  10. - Bill - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:40 pm:

    I bet that the Mayor is just salivating over the whole $50 million that the city might make.This whole thing is really stupid.I don’t mind gambling but Judy must have been asleep or not paying attention for the last 10 years as these proposals were floated over and over again. Maybe they could put the casino in Berwyn or Cicero.


  11. - just watching - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:47 pm:

    rather refreshing to have a governor candidate that actually has plan to fund her ideas. I suppose the doubters on here were perfectly fine with Blago’s nuerous dead on arrival funding sources…. Selling the tollway…selling the lottery….selling the thompson center….selling our children (my bad he hasn’t rolled that one out yet)


  12. - Buck Flagojevich - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:48 pm:

    Is it not better to have some state control over new gambling positions rather than having a Native American group come in and develop a mega-casino/bingo parlor? It is my understanding the states cut is far less from those types of operations. In addition those facilities will draw business away from state “sponsored” gambling entities.


  13. - Bill - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:49 pm:

    Can you imagine the reaction to this plan by all of the right wingers and religious fanatics who were so upset by a little KENO? And by the way, how is adding 3000 slots and building the biggest casino in the state not an expansion of gambling? Doesn’t all this nonsense have to be approved by the legislature that is most likely to achieve an even larger majority democratic majority in both houses?
    What is she thinking?
    Get off the bus and do a little research, Judy, or at least hire someone to do it.
    Oh That’s right, you don’t have any money. Maybe you can try an Illinois casino to fatten your empty campaign fund.


  14. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 1:54 pm:

    Bill, Keno would have put multiple mini casinos in every town in Illinois that had a willing tavern. All without local control or the ability to say no. Big difference.

    Still, the details do invite sniping, which is why challengers almost always avoid them.


  15. - Reddbyrd - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:00 pm:

    What an amazing coup! The Finale of the Fuzzy Math Follies top the previous stuff.
    Judy Bore grinds out a plan that no one will support.
    Love to be the Common Sense Excuse this afternoon
    Brickhead the Execution starts hyperventilating over more gaming in IL.
    Looks like she leaves out the horsemen so Mr. D and others will be big times “no”
    She may get overlooked because Tom Cross & the Sock Puppets are rolling out an old George Ryan scam today too. They want to suspend state gas taxes so refiners and retailers can stuff even more cash in their pockets. George did this a few years ago. Refiners got fat. Maybe TC thinks Big Oil will share the boodle with him


  16. - Anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:01 pm:

    From the Crain’s article: “John Filan’s, Mr. Blagojevich’s budget director, is scheduled to respond to Ms. Topinka’s proposal later today.”

    I wasn’t aware that Filan had taken a leave of absence from his government job to be able to engage in campaign activities. Oh well, must have missed that.


  17. - Gus Frerotte's Clipboard - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:04 pm:

    Rich is absolutely right. Give Topinka a lot of credit for having the guts to come up with a detailed plan like this. After we’ve all seen millions of dollars of Governor Blagojevich ads about this plan all fall, no challenger will ever put out a detailed plan like this again, so we should enjoy the moment while we have it.

    I have no problem with a Chicago casino or gambling expansion, but two thoughts come immediately to mind: (1) it’s really hard to get anybody excited about a funding proposal that was already tried by your opponent and went down to crushing defeat; and (2) I find it hard to believe that the revenue she’d generate from this would cover all of the spending she’s saying she’d do, but even if it does long term, how long does that take to kick in? The existing casinos should be able to expand pretty rapidly, but let’s say a Chicago license is approved by the GA in spring of 2007. When is that casino up and running? Where does it get sited? Built? Who’s running it? Even if all of that happens really quickly, it’s hard to imagine any of that happening in time to have a significant impact in FY 08 (other than the sale of the license itself), which would be Topinka’s first budget year.


  18. - Team Sleep - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:06 pm:

    Tightening the belt is easier said than done. It would take a miracle for the GOP to regain the House and Senate, and Judy would have a tough time getting any of her proposals through the legislature. If JBT wins she will veto both Dem budgets for 2007 and 2008 and hope that her fellow Republicans in the GA can hold the line to force the Democrats’ hand(s). Unless that occurs all of her proposals will have to wait until at least 2009.


  19. - Bill - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:07 pm:

    That is true,Rich, but I kinda think that Mayor Daley and the Chicago City Council might exert a little local control themselves and just say NO!
    Then where is Judy’s plan?


  20. - just watching - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:07 pm:

    the details are the difference in this whole election, there is at least the realization that something needs to be done fix the incredible fiscal mess we have here and a detailed plan to get it done.

    Blago does not nor ever will have any details because those pesky details tend to make the press releases for ridiculous spending plans we can’t afford too long. which is not good for someone who governs by press release.


  21. - Bill - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:10 pm:

    Where are Schnorf,Numbers Guy,and Budget Watcher when we really need them? Either their computers and calculators are overheated or they are too busy laughing.


  22. - The Reporter In Question - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:13 pm:

    Prediction: This plan hurts JBT downstate, or at least in southern Illinois, where gambling opposition is still somewhat fierce despite the Metropolis and Metro East boats.

    Now, it may not matter, since the same people who are against gambling are also against Rod (and then some). But it’s not a benefit.

    A couple of weeks ago, I said I didn’t think JBT wanted to be Governor. Now, I think that even though I don’t agree with all her policies, we’re seeing the start of a solid campaign. Who knows what happens with 10 million more in ads from Blago’s side, though.


  23. - Bill - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:15 pm:

    In the interest of fairness let me state that I love the spending part of the plan and endorse all of her spending proposals. It is about time someone had the guts to advocate that type of spending. I am sure that Judy will figure out a way to pay for it someday.
    Probably after she loses the election.


  24. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:23 pm:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, it’s happened before, but under current law doesn’t it allow for only 2,000 gambling slots at the currently existing casinos? Even if you buy the premise that using the defunct license for Chicago doesn’t constitute expansion because it’s already there and just dormant, how do you justify that adding another 1,000 slots at each of the 10 licenses (an increase of 10,000 new gaming positions under this proposal) isn’t an increase of gambling? Am I wrong?


  25. - Annoyed all the time - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:28 pm:

    I was not a fan of keno and I am not a fan of another casino. Especially in the Chicago area. We have enough people walking around the town with empty pockets trying to feed their families. Enough people already flock to Hammond with their week’s paycheck unable to pay rent but putting it all in the slots. The degererates this will turn out. It is an expansion. Not in the sense of adding a license but yes using up an unused one. I understand the dollars but theses aren’t only tourist dollars, these are our people who LOSE money at the casinos. How else do you think casinos do so well they TAKE people’s money. Then those people turn to social services for support and then we as Illinois looses. Sorry sister but she is now NOT AT ALL getting my support. Bad idea, BAD BAD


  26. - Reddbyrd - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:31 pm:

    Where are the reacts from Brickhead. MIA stu and Chopper Jim? This idea will cream her in the ‘burbs too as the haters & handwringers unload. COuld this be the last days of the AccordionGal? Is she getting ready to drop? Will Keyes be back?
    Stay tuned


  27. - B Hicks - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:32 pm:

    “This is Illinois, not Las Vegas!”

    What about more prison guards and pay raises for state merit comp. workers?

    I’m broke; I need some extra cash.


  28. - Old Elephant - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:35 pm:

    “Sniping” is a good description Rich. There will be nitpicking of the details, but think of the upsides here:

    Good contrast to Blagojevich, whose vodoo math never works (he’s funding ethonal by collecting taxes that are uncollectable)

    Topinka can say she is taking ownership of the issue of property tax reform and putting the General Assembly under the gun by including a two-year deadline — again a good contrast to Elvis, who wants to sell off an asset and make funding education someone else’s problem.

    Property tax relief jumps off the charts in the suburbs, this is a good strategy to bring back her suburban base.

    She can talk about reforming the gaming board, and draw a contrast to Public Official A on corruption.

    Daley may trash it — but he may see this as an opportunity that he’s unlikely to ever get under Blagojevich.

    This probably locks up the IEA and AFSCME endorsements — they’ll see this a real, as opposed to the Governor’s smoke and mirrors. More funding for schools plus pension funding, plus prison guards. This puts bodies in the streets for Topinka.

    The editorial boards who have been whining about no details or plans will like this. The Trib and Sun Times don’t really care about city ownership, but they care about giving Chicago a license.

    For the rest of the campaign, she doesn’t have to answer the question of how she’s going to pay for her plans. Media will focus on Blagojevich’s empty promises.


  29. - NumbersGuy - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:36 pm:

    Bill, you’re right. My abacus is a bit overheated from crunching the details of all this.

    A couple non-numerical observations:

    -I don’t think we all can assume that Daley will a) run for re-election and b) be reelected. No offense intended.

    -I agree with Rich about Filan. I know my friend Schnorf doesn’t. For my 2 pennies worth, either the campaign gets its own budget expert or Filan goes over. These are two hats that just can’t be worn at the same time.

    -P.P. Bob sounds like Carpentersville Jack with his raving about teachers’ pay increases and the ERO. Bob, see PA 94-0004 which places the cost of end of career increases for the most part on school districts, not the State or the TRS. That law also changed the teacher ERO to make it cost-neutral to the State. Bob, if you don’t like how your school board negotiates contracts, exercise some “local control” and vote in a new school board! BTW, you must be one hell of a financial analyst, as you were able to figure out in 10 minutes that this plan is all out of whack. I barely got it read in that time.


  30. - DOWNSTATE - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:40 pm:

    Something for everyone at least she is going to pay for it now.Blago wants our grandkids to pay oh I forgot he just hired a bunch of un-educated campaign workers to do state budget audit work and they found billions.HA HA HA HA HA


  31. - Bubs - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:43 pm:

    Anyone Chicago resident who wants to gamble in a casino need only drive 20 minues down the Dan Ryan and Skyway to Hammond, IN. Except there the revenue is collected by the State of Indiana, not the State of Illinois.

    A land-based casino in Chicago is a long overdue necessity, from the aspects of lost opportunities for revenue (why give it to Indiana?), tourism and conventions.


  32. - Left Leaner - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:44 pm:

    Why is it that gambling is seen as the only way to raise revenue? Are our elected officials today so narrow-minded that they can’t find creative and better ways to balance a budget?


  33. - Anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 2:51 pm:

    She’s got to be desperate to suggest a plan that has no chance. I for one will be glad to see her go. She’s sold out in so many ways. Maybe her boy Bush will give her a job.


  34. - Woe is us - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 3:01 pm:

    Isnt Judy banking on Daley blocking the casino? Gives her yet another opportunity to blame “Chicago Democrats” for the State’s financial woes.


  35. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 3:05 pm:

    Woe, I doubt that’s a correct assumption, but let’s wait to see what he says.


  36. - Niles Township - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 3:06 pm:

    Politicians turn to gaming as a revenue source when they have no other ideas. I suggest if JBT has no other ideas, the GOP is in more trouble in this state than I had thought. This is a political play for Daley’s support, not a good government play. It won’t happen. When will we have a political leader who has the courage to say what we all know needs to be said: “Let’s cut every bit off pork (and I mean all of it) and then we need to raise income taxes which are very low in this state.” I am fiscally conservative, but even I know this madness of borrowing and gaming is not a long term solution.


  37. - anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 3:08 pm:

    I could stomach the plan easier if she wasn’t trying to sell it as not really gambling expansion. C’mon. I thought she was leading the common sense express. Be upfront about what you’re doing and stop trying to manipulate everybody.


  38. - Bubs - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 3:42 pm:

    John (”We’ll Get Billions in Revenue by Cracking Down on Tax Cheats!”) Filan, state employee, is making the Blago response, huh?

    Like he has a shred of credibility left.


  39. - Truthful James - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 3:47 pm:

    Like to know who does her numbers, Nostradamus?


  40. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 3:47 pm:

    Blago already has an ad on this:

    http://topinkawatch.com/vertical/Sites/{127287A4-C1A0-4263-A09C-48BCCA58E3B2}/uploads/{F1D210D3-4B04-4B13-A3F7-202DA911AB83}.MOV


  41. - Dan Vock - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 3:53 pm:

    It’s interesting. Topinka seems to be making this a race (on the policy side) about what’s more important to fund: Education (her) or health care (Blagojevich). And Blago’s campaign sounds like they’ll take that debate.


  42. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 4:26 pm:

    Okay, how does this plan compare to selling the lottery which no one with a brain would buy? How can Blago speak a desparaging word when he is Mr. Keno?


  43. - Bill - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 4:34 pm:

    Wumpus,
    This is Illinois, not Las Vegas Ok?
    What a great commercial and it only took 20 minutes.The governor must have genuises working over there!


  44. - Bill - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 4:39 pm:

    Hey Truthful,
    How do you like the education spending by your girl Judy? Billions of new dollars and not a voucher in sight…950 mil for higher ed. but only to curb tuition increases aaaaaaaaaandddd 3billion for new clasrooms and I don’t think she was talking about St. Agatha’s charter school.
    It is enough to make me vote republican.
    I wonder what extreme wisdom thinks of the Republican candidate now. I wish that, for once, I could be one of the six listeners of his show.


  45. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 4:42 pm:

    “Bill” said: “It is enough to make me vote republican.”

    I think I may faint.


  46. - Troy News Guy - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 4:47 pm:

    I don’t think adding a casino to Chicago will cause JBT any harm downstate…. we already have it and it makes sense to have it in our state’s capital as well! It will increase tourism… after all, isnt that why IHSA moved the basketball tournament to Peoria from Champaign?


  47. - DOWNSTATE - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 4:56 pm:

    Anything is better than Blago’s plan.DON’T WORRY WE WILL ALL BE GONE WHEN IT’S TIME TO PAY FOR IT.That’s a helluva plan.


  48. - Anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 4:59 pm:

    If property taxes are frozen, with the “make up” funds coming from the state, that means the districts with the highest proportion of their budgets from property taxes - the wealthy suburban school districts - will get the greatest amount of state dollars.

    If the source of these dollars is cuts to Medicaid, it means the source will be from cuts hittest the poorest in society.

    Thus, steal from the poor to benefit the rich - Judy is stealing from President Bush’s playbook. A true “George Bush Republican”.


  49. - Team Sleep - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 4:59 pm:

    Blago’s people would be FIRED if they didn’t release something snappy like an internet ad within an hour. After all, he pays them to get him re-elected, and he pays them well.


  50. - paddyrollingstone - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 5:05 pm:

    I am a big Blago supporter but I must say from a political spectator standpoint, this is a good move by JBT. It is common knowledge that the Mayor does not care if an R or D is Governor as long as the Governor will make deals for the City, a la Thompson and Ryan. Obviously, this proposal gives ammo to Rod but if it moves sufficient votes in Chicago and Cook to her and from Rod, in a very close race, then Daley’s tacit support of her could push her over the top.


  51. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 5:35 pm:

    Anti-gaming activists aren’t going to like either proposal. Most voters outside of Chicago won’t care if a casino is built in Chicago. If a Democrat had proposed this, Republicans would be howling about the corrupt Chicago Democratic machine. What’s Blagojevich going to say?

    “She wants to cut health care.”

    That’s hardly a rebuttal of her casino proposal.

    I also don’t think Blagojevich wants this campaign to be about who breaks their promises or flip-flops on the issues. When Blagojevich wanted to put a casino in Chicago, he claimed he wasn’t breaking his pledge. Atleast Topinka can say “I changed my mind.” My good friend State Rep. Jim Sacia would argue that’s proof she has a mind.

    Partisan Democrats can crow all they want, but I think Topinka has out-manuevered Rod, even if her plan never comes to fruition. Let’ face it, Rod’s was DOA.


  52. - Old Elephant - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 5:37 pm:

    Okay, the same guy who ordered state agencies to fabricate arbitary “savings” and who has a secret plan to sell the lottery for $10 billion that he can’t substantiate is now saying Topinka’s numbers don’t add up?

    If its true that Daley didn’t trash the plan immediately, that’s big news.


  53. - Doug Dobmeyer - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 5:40 pm:

    And this too will fail. Every time a pol tried to put a casino in Chicago the plan fails - why? Because the people here do not want gambling to further fleece them of their money!

    Doug Dobmeyer


  54. - anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 5:41 pm:

    Anon 4:59.
    So who should get the lion’s share of property tax relief? The suburban homeowners paying for 75 to 95 percent of their school budgets with their own property tax dollars with minimal help from the state or the downstate residents whose districts often get the majority of their funding from the state?

    Everyone whines that the state should provide more for education and then tries to solve the issue by going after the people who rely on the state the least.


  55. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 5:42 pm:

    Correction - it was keno that the gov argued was not a gambling expansion, not a Chicago casino.


  56. - Justice - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 5:48 pm:

    Great plan. Plenty at the table for everyone. I may be wrong but isn’t the Illinois Lottery gambling? Oh well……like it or not, gambling casinos in Chicago would be a great boon for the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. It would dramatically increase tourism. I vote for gambling in Chicago. I think it would steal a bit from Vegas and some from Havana….oops, Castro isn’t dead yet is he. Well, go for it Judy. Let the experts on this post help you sort it out. Lots of geniuses just waiting to contribute their brilliance. Together we can win!!!


  57. - bob white - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 5:49 pm:

    I hope everyone in Illinois gets a good chuckle out of a Blagojevich budget person insisting somebody else’s numbers don’t add up. Filan and that crew make Ponzi look like a straight arrow.


  58. - Truthful James - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 5:53 pm:

    Bill –

    Regarding the ed proposal and your comments, you old spendthrift, you.

    Since exactly when has extra dough meant extra quality which means extra learning. The great EdMonopoly sponge sucks it all up.

    The competition should not be about More, it should be about Better. The only independent yardstick we have is comparing the United States with the rest of the world. We are not, my friend, getting Better. You can vote for More if you wish.


  59. - Old Elephant - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 6:39 pm:

    What a great idea for a “Capitol Fax” contest: Complete the sentence –

    “John Filan saying the numbers don’t add up is like…”


  60. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 6:40 pm:

    At least JBT’s plan has a shot. The lotto thing was a ploy to “punk” Meeks, it worked for that if nothing else.

    It’s not Keno, but it may help.


  61. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 7:03 pm:

    ….Bill saying “It is enough to make me vote Republican?”


  62. - budgetwonk - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 7:32 pm:

    ….is like when he says “the budget is balanced.”


  63. - anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 7:42 pm:

    I believe in the theory that it’s not an expansion of gaming as long as its going to existing GAMING locations and wherever the unused license goes. That, of course, brings up the question of the racetracks. They are already gaming locations. There is no way something is going to happen unless they are included somehow. They showed they still have some muscle when they got the deal giving them 3% of the bigger casino boats, which sunsets in two years. After that, it reverts back to the old law. Under the old law horseracing was entitled to 15% of the adjusted gross from a 10th license and that would be the Chicago license. They either need the proposal expanded to include slots at the track or they are looking at a sizable amount of $ from the proceeds produced from the Chicago casino. Also, most of the riverboats, outside of the four largest, probably don’t need more than the 1200 positions they already have. They only way to get their local legislators to support this, is if they can sell or lease their extra positions to those that need it. That would allow a private Chicago boat or the suburban ones to bid on those and max out to whatever the market bears.


  64. - muletown - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 7:44 pm:

    No budget plan of any Governor ends up 100% ratified. It is comprehensive and logical.

    Bill I say to you, this budget has Jim Edgar’s fingerprints all over it. I guarentee where there is Jim Edgar there is Steve Schnorf. Even if Steve Schnorf is at his retirement retreat in Georgia or Tennessee or wherever he went he was still in on this. Governor Edgar and Steve have been joined at the hip since their youth it has not stopped.

    Be careful where you place Mr. Daley in this campaign. I don’t believe he is a “campaign chairman” this time around for the Governor. I also would bet he trusts the redhead more than he does the Governor. In fact you look at the major players in the Democrat party, Obama, Jackson Jr., Rush, White, Hynes, Meeks, Madigan’s him and her, Emanual & Durbin have much love for the Current Governor. I do not believe any would lose much sleep if he went back to Malibu. Don’t forget he did finish third in Chicago during the last primary. He hasn’t bought their loyalty despite all the money he has thrown in that direction. I don’t see any of them banging the drum on his behalf so far in this campaign. They didn’t pipe up for him on Governor’s day from what I read and heard. Think about it.


  65. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 7:45 pm:

    You go girl.
    Blago’s people are just upset because he’s a Chicago Democrat therefore he could never go there(Chicago Casino). Judy’s word is gold, unlike our present Governor. She will make this happen.


  66. - WWDMD - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:09 pm:

    gaming for education dollars…plain and simple. the 10th lisc, will solve all the educational woes and disparity in this state….right. and i’ve got a bridge to sell. (whoops we did that) There are no way to ensure that the money will go only towards education. Believe me, a land based casino in chicago will benefit chicago, not other “blighted” areas (north/south surbs locations for example). Its the wrong direction and bad public policy.


  67. - Budget Watcher - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:15 pm:

    It’s very difficult to dissect any plan when the underlying base assumptions are not public. If JBT were governor, this plan would have to be scrutinized by legislative staffs and debated in committees just like every governor’s budget. She’s not governor, so we’re stuck without a comprehensive review. There’s a lot of moving parts in her budget and it’s especially detailed for a challenger. That tells me she’s hired some experts to assist her and that these people have done a lot of work.


  68. - the ole precinct captain - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:15 pm:

    After watching the press release on Chicago Tonight, Why does all of the people look either mad or uncomfortable standing behind topinka while she spoke. Birkett reminded me of how he looked at his lack of concession speech 4 years ago and a small old man really looked surly. Nice group - gave me a good laugh.


  69. - anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:17 pm:

    finally–a reason to get out the popcorn at the next debate because jbt was masquerading as Admiral Stockdale as in “who am I?” “why am I here?” before– and now our gov will be able to throw some punches in the ring with the “baby needs a new school funding system” program


  70. - Budget Watcher - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:20 pm:

    One other point - vacation day or not, John Filan should not be acting as spokesman for the campaign while being on the state payroll. This is a pretty clear conflict of interest.


  71. - Anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:21 pm:

    I’m sure John Filan opted to take a “vacation” day AFTER he got called out on it.

    I will guarantee you he used his state cell phone and blackberry to communicate with the campaign on this - which is just as much of a violation.


  72. - Hugh G. Rection - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:38 pm:

    You got to give Hairdo his due. What a great campaigner! An amazingly fast and thorough response. Too bad for the rest of us, campaigning and governing aren’t the same thing.


  73. - Snidely Whiplash - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:40 pm:

    Well, last time I checked, old Vladgo surpassed even Ryan’s deficit when you get past his “creative” math. Is he actually still claiming that the State doesn’t have a $5B-plus deficit???

    And that’s not even counting the billions to pay for his “throw money at the schools ‘plan’” he came up with as payment to Means’ extortionate demands to drop his candidacy (and its commensurate loss of half a billion a year in lottery revenue).

    Look, Topinka’s under pressure by the media to match Vladgo’s pie-in-the-sky massive spending projects for education and health care, when what this state really needs are serious financial cuts (unless realistic tax hikes are made, which of course nobody wants, either).

    In a nutshell, I think the media unfairly criticized Topinka for not coming up with huge “plans” when what she really needs to do is advocate the fiscal sanity she was calling for all along, and are now criticizing THAT. C’mon, where’s the hard questions about funding that school “plan” and selling the lottery??? That is HUGE news that shouldn’t disappear after a few weeks on the news, and no real answers ever materialized. They sure do give up easily, don’t they?


  74. - Old Elephant - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:42 pm:

    I’m wondering if the entire GOMB staff took a vacation day as well. Someone had to crunch the numbers and you can be sure it wasn’t Filan.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of trail was left by e-mails and cell phone records. Typical of Blagojevich administration, they could have avoided this controversy by just waiting for the press to ask them. (Okay for Filan to respond to questions from the media, not okay to hold a pre-emptive campaign press conference)


  75. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 8:43 pm:

    Well, thanks to the Ethics Act, which Ms. Nix will tell you was all Rod’s idea, Director Filan should be filling out a timesheet that documents his daily use of State time to the nearest 15 minutes.

    As a payroll record, that document is exempt from FOIA and should be readily available to any of you inquiring minds who want to check it out, along with his cellphone records and emails.


  76. - anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 9:10 pm:

    Filan actually calls Topinka’s plan a “fiction.”
    This from the Stephen King of financial planning.


  77. - (618) Democrat - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 9:30 pm:

    A huge increase in gambeling. This ought to shore up her base.


  78. Pingback Reverse Spin » Richest campaign ever uses state employees - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 10:43 pm:

    […] When called on it, the Blagojevich campaign said Filan was on vacation today — although most people I know don’t wear clothes like that on vacation. Filan told everyone there that he was taking a vacation day so JBT’s campaign knows that — there is no question about taxpayer dollars. Also, since JBT’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. […]


  79. - Roy Slade - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 10:56 pm:

    At first glance, I have no real problems with her proposal. Do I like everything in it? Of course not- but, overall, it is a reasonable start to get this state back out of the mess that blago has gotten us into.

    It is funny how for months, bloggers were saying how JBT hasn’t provided any “ideas” or “plans” of what she would do. Over the past weeks, she has started detailing her concepts of governing, as well as her priorities for the future. As usual- Bill, Redbyrd, and others of their ilk have proclaimed her plans “wrong/ stupid/ unworkable/ etc. They are simply party democrats- not at all interested in leaving this state in good hands.


  80. Trackback WurfWhile - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 11:18 pm:

    Topinka Gambles On Counter-Intuitive Chicago Casino Expansion In Illinois Gubernatorial Race - Smart Or Stupid?

    I’m not for gambling expansion - but here I’m interested in the strategy of what Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka proposed today: a Casino in Chicago. Rich Miller does an exceptional job (as he often does) covering it here….


  81. - Anon - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 11:27 pm:

    Who really listens to Filan anyway, if he was so smart we wouldn’t be in this mess. Ask some former people that have worked for this idiot and they will tell you the truth. Also if Blago got rid of all his employees that he has hired for the Gov’s office that are from out of state (New YOrk for instance)(Can you say Shummers crew)would he have any staff left. They could care less about Illinois they only want the national attention………..


  82. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 11:40 pm:

    Anon, Director Filan may be a lot of things, but “idiot” certainly isn’t one of them. A little more respect, please.


  83. - B Hicks - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 11:52 pm:

    This race is going to boil down to base against base. Her message now to the right wing of the Illinois Republican Party is simple: expand gambling, or face a tax increase.

    What to do?


  84. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 12:54 am:

    Filan is the state’s top budget official. I don’t see anything wrong with him analyzing and commenting on proposals that will affect the state’s budget.

    That said, I think Topinka’s numbers do pretty much add up. Someone needed to propose a way to generate significant additional BASE revenue for the state. This does that. I personally would prefer a tax increase, but JBT clearly doesn’t think we need to do that, so she and the Governor agree on that issue.

    I don’t think that this debate will be able to be characterized as “more money for health care vs more money for education”. Both proposals call for more money for both. One difference is that JBT proposes property tax relief, where as far as I can tell, the Governor’s plan doesn’t.

    The biggest difference is on the revenue side to pay for the spending. The Governor calls for a large one-time cashing out of a fixed asset, which fund his education proposal for four years (which he absolutely acknowleges, but it always gets lost in the smoke of this site). The Governor calls for the one time education funding increase to run out after he leaves office. Topinka calls for her property tax proposal to expire in the middle of her term, which means she is leaving herself, not someone else, to solve the resultant problem.

    JBT says medicaid payment cycle down to 30 days within two years, and a big part of how she intends to do that is clearly by curtailing medicaid spending growth. I don’t remember if the Governor has said anything specific about the payment cycle or not in his plan.

    JBT proposes funding the ‘95 pension ramp-up law, I don’t think the Governor has been specific on what he intends to do on pensions (correct me if I’m wrong, someone).

    JBT says she will end fund sweeps; I think the Governor foresees continuing them.

    The Governors plan clearly will make more people eligible for state subsidized health care than JBT will–maybe the debate will be framed as whether $75,000 is the right income level for state subsidized health care. I think there will be a division of opinion on this one. I think $75,000 doesn’t sound like all that much income in the Chicago metro area. In most places downstate it sounds like quite a bit of income.

    The last big difference in my mind is JBT’s confidence that she can pass a capital plan, including $3 billion in school construction. She’s probably right, since passing a capital bill is usually the norm in Illinois, not a rarity like it has become in the past few years.

    She has laid out an ambitious agenda for herself. People should stop saying she doesn’t have a plan, and start looking at whose plan they like better and/or have more confidence in.

    By the way, I did not draft the plan she has released.


  85. - Scott Fawell's Cellmate - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 12:54 am:

    First, a preliminary point on strategy. By criticizng Filan and whether or not he used vacation time to rebut Topinka’s plan and when he submitted his leave slips (blah blah blah), the ExecDir of the IL GOP and others are wasting valuable free media and diverting the public’s limited attention from the main, primo, only issue of the day for them: their candidate’s detailed plan for the state. Today was about Judy. Her vision. Her plan. Her leadership. However, while the IL GOP wandered off message, Blago aired an ad in TWENTY MINUTES to stay on Blago’s message and continue to define and frame Topinka. (A reminder that the Governor has a campaign staff as focused and prepared as Topinka’s staff is unfocused and unprepared.) Understandable mistake. Dems make the same mistake with their obsession over Karl Rove, i.e. Evil Incarnate, while they often ignore Rove’s boss, the actual President of the United States.

    Now, as for the actual plan, after 26 years immersed in state government - as a State Rep, State Senator and State Treasurer - Topinka’s plan to fund primary and post-secondary education, to control increasing property taxes, to create jobs and a stronger economy, to fund state employees’ pensions, to build roads and infrastructure, to hire more prison guards, and to otherwise make life better for Illinoisians is - wait for it - to build another casino.

    Wow.

    Others here have already detailed the technical faults in (again) relying on gambling as a revenue stream, so I won’t repeat them. Whether its expanding the number of casinos, expanding slots from casinos to the racetrack, legalizing keno in bars, or increasing the casino license fees and charges to the casinos, Dems and Republicans have lined up against this lazy way to try to manage a state’s finances. And as the above video link shows, Topinka herself recently stated “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?”

    (Side note: will Topinka use any casino money to fund the state stem cell research program ? Why or why not ?)

    Also, expanding state gambling into Chicago with a new casino and expanding slot machine gambling from the casinos to the racetracks is not “expanding gambling” ? Topinka is going to sound like a trial lawyer parsing and redefining the meaning of the term “expanding,” and that “Common Sense Express” slogan on the bus now is a joke. Plus, Judy just doesn’t have the discipline to stay focused on her distinction. After a long day of mind-numbing media availabilities, press calls, and public appearances, she will freelance and spout off the cuff with something colorful. And, again, the Governor’s campaign will have that cute little saying online, on the radio and on television in the same news cycle. And then Judy is off message - again.

    In closing, we waited for the centerpiece of Topinka’s campaign and when it finally arrived it was DOA.

    (Of course, I offer the usual disclaimer - I do not work for the Governor, am not a campaign worker or volunteer, do not receive a state contract, etc. - I do when posting here, recognizing that anyone who submits anything praising the Governor and critical of Topinka must work for the Governor. Sorry - I just happen to have a 3-week old son who refuses to stay asleep and causes daddy to blog IL politics. :))


  86. - Scott Fawell's Cellmate - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 1:03 am:

    Lost in all the budget discussion and analysis is Topinka’s announcement that she will clean up the Gaming Authority. Good ideas, and much needed. However, as the Chicago Tribune presented in the below article (April 17, 2001), Topinka, George Ryan, Cellini, and the usual insiders have a poor track record running casinos legally and above board in Illinois. (I apologize in advance for the very long paste below. I couldn’t post a link to the archived version.)

    BINION SELLS JOLIET CASINO
    $100 MILLION PROFIT SEEN IN DEAL WITH GOP POWERBROKER
    by Douglas Holt and Michael Higgins, Tribune staff reporters.

    Though his tenure at the helm of the Joliet Empress casino was brief and stormy, controversial casino boss Jack Binion may walk away with a more than $100 million profit on the $465 million sale of the riverboat announced Monday to Downstate powerbroker William Cellini.

    For Cellini–a former state transportation secretary, top GOP fundraiser and friend to a succession of Republican governors including George Ryan–the acquisition represents the potential of another bountiful return from the Illinois casino business since his Argosy Gaming Co. opened the state’s first casino in Alton a decade ago.

    Since then, Argosy has gone public and expanded to operate casinos in Missouri, Louisiana, Iowa and Indiana.

    For Binion, the sale of the Empress represents a painful, albeit lucrative, setback for his high-profile campaign to become a major player in the gambling business in the Chicago area, the nation’s third largest gambling market after Las Vegas and New Jersey.

    Binion bought the Empress and a sister boat in Indiana in late 1999 for $629 million, but the Illinois Gaming Board last year reversed its initial approval of the deal and declared Binion unsuitable to run a casino in the state. He at first vowed to fight the ruling, but then reached an agreement with state regulators to sell the Joliet boat.

    Horseshoe Holding Co., the gambling firm run by Binion that also holds stakes in gambling operations in Mississippi, Louisiana and Las Vegas, will retain control of the Indiana boat.

    Gambling industry analysts said the Illinois and Indiana boats that Binion had purchased as a package are of roughly equal value, meaning the sale of the Illinois boat that Horseshoe ran for less than 18 months should easily translate into a more than $100 million profit.

    Guy Chipparoni, a spokesman for Horseshoe, said that profit calculation could be overstated because the company spent considerable amounts of money in legal fees to initially fight the Gaming Board decision.

    He said the company also incurred more costs because it moved its corporate headquarters and about 50 employees to Illinois when Binion first bought the Empress.

    “We are pleased that we were able to strike this agreement with an Illinois-based company,” Chipparoni said.

    Though gambling opponents were happy to see Binion announce his departure from Illinois, they also denounced the quick and hefty profit he turned.

    “Only in the most regulated industry in the U.S. do you get caught doing things wrong and then rewarded for it,” said Rev. Tom Grey, executive director of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. “I wish I could get regulated like that.”

    Fines in other states

    Binion’s troubles in Illinois began early last year after the Tribune revealed that the board, in approving his purchase of the Empress, had ignored recommendations from its own staff that the deal be blocked.

    Staff analysts had complained that Binion’s gambling operations in other states had been slapped with huge fines and repeatedly had entered into sham contracts with minority vendors in order to create the appearance of satisfying minority participation goals.

    Even in January, as Binion agreed to sell the Empress, the board leveled a $95,000 fine on Horseshoe for entering into a hard-to-explain, $1.5 million consulting contract with John Glennon, who served as finance committee chairman for Ryan.

    The sale of the Empress to Cellini’s firm would not have been possible had it not been for a controversial 1999 gambling law passed by the legislature and signed by Ryan.

    Prior to that, no firm was allowed to own more than one casino in the state. That restriction was abolished as part of the new law, which was designed to pave the way for a casino in Rosemont as well as for the first time allow gambling on boats tethered to the dock.

    Because Argosy already holds a license to operate the Alton casino, its purchase of the Joliet boat is not expected to raise concerns of regulators at the Gaming Board.

    Potential board conflict

    Even so, it could raise potential conflict of interest headaches for the board down the road. That is because of an appointment made recently by Ryan to fill a vacancy on the five-member board.

    Ryan named Ira Rogal, one of the state’s top lobbyists, to the board. One of the partners in Rogal’s lobbying firm is Gerald Shea, a former Democratic leader of the Illinois House, who was an investor along with Cellini in a Springfield hotel that benefited from a controversial state-backed construction loan.

    While more than $24 million is outstanding on the loan, the hotel partners have paid only $2.12 million. The last payment was made in 1997, and the matter is tied up in court in a dispute over a $10 million settlement proposed by state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka and opposed by state Atty. Gen. Jim Ryan.

    As chairman of the Argosy board, Cellini is the company’s largest individual shareholder, controlling Argosy holdings valued at $48 million, according to documents filed in March with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Efforts to reach Cellini on Monday were unsuccessful.

    For Argosy, the purchase of the Empress gives it a foothold in the lucrative Chicago market, where a huge population and strict limits on competition make it “one of the strongest gaming markets in the country,” said James Perry, Argosy president and chief executive officer.

    In Joliet, Argosy hopes to change the Empress from a casino with two riverboats to a single barge. “We have found that customers prefer a one-level casino,” he said.

    But Perry said the company won’t proceed with the plan until there’s a resolution to litigation that challenges the constitutionality of the state’s gambling act.

    If the lawsuit succeeds, it could eliminate the right that casinos now enjoy to conduct gambling at dockside, allowing patrons to come and go virtually round the clock. That rule led to a surge in casino revenues. Previously, boats were required to pull away from docks before allowing gambling to begin, effectively limiting the number of people that could go on board.

    While having nowhere near the regulatory difficulties as Binion, Argosy Gaming has been hit with six-figure fines in Missouri, Indiana and Illinois, public records show. Violations included mishandling casino cash and chips, failing to properly check backgrounds of key employees and failing to keep proper track of state taxes assessed per patron.

    Perry acknowledged that regulators over the years have assessed fines on Argosy ranging from about $5,000 to $125,000 for various violations.

    But Perry said the fines were not for any intentional misconduct, but rather for basic employee errors, such as allowing underage gamblers into the casino, miscalibrating coin machines and failing to properly record which employees held the keys to off-limits areas of the casino.

    “Employees make mistakes,” Perry said. “Those [fines] are consistent with what I know other operators have paid. … I think our compliance ranks right up there among the top of all gaming companies.”

    Tied to Kenosha proposal

    Argosy made headlines in recent months with an agreement to manage–but not own–a proposed Indian casino just north of the Illinois border in Kenosha, a project that Illinois lawmakers complained would drain dollars from casinos here. Argosy also agreed to provide up to $40 million to get the casino off the ground.

    But prospects for the Kenosha project dimmed earlier this year when new Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum took office and declared his opposition to any new, off-reservation, Indian casinos.


  87. - Scott Fawell's Cellmate - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 1:13 am:

    The discussion of Topinka’s proposal today has focused exclusively on on the budget plan, but lets not forget she also proposed changes to bolster the “integrity” of the Gaming Board.

    However, as the below story explains, Topinka, George Ryan, Cellini and the rest of the GOP insiders in Springfield have a bad history of running casinos and the word “integrity” probably isn’t a term regulators would use to describe it. (I apologize in advance for the length of the below paste. Couldn’t paste the linck to the archived version.)

    BINION SELLS JOLIET CASINO
    $100 MILLION PROFIT SEEN IN DEAL WITH GOP POWERBROKER
    by Douglas Holt and Michael Higgins, Tribune staff reporters.

    April 17, 2001

    Though his tenure at the helm of the Joliet Empress casino was brief and stormy, controversial casino boss Jack Binion may walk away with a more than $100 million profit on the $465 million sale of the riverboat announced Monday to Downstate powerbroker William Cellini.

    For Cellini–a former state transportation secretary, top GOP fundraiser and friend to a succession of Republican governors including George Ryan–the acquisition represents the potential of another bountiful return from the Illinois casino business since his Argosy Gaming Co. opened the state’s first casino in Alton a decade ago.

    Since then, Argosy has gone public and expanded to operate casinos in Missouri, Louisiana, Iowa and Indiana.

    For Binion, the sale of the Empress represents a painful, albeit lucrative, setback for his high-profile campaign to become a major player in the gambling business in the Chicago area, the nation’s third largest gambling market after Las Vegas and New Jersey.

    Binion bought the Empress and a sister boat in Indiana in late 1999 for $629 million, but the Illinois Gaming Board last year reversed its initial approval of the deal and declared Binion unsuitable to run a casino in the state. He at first vowed to fight the ruling, but then reached an agreement with state regulators to sell the Joliet boat.

    Horseshoe Holding Co., the gambling firm run by Binion that also holds stakes in gambling operations in Mississippi, Louisiana and Las Vegas, will retain control of the Indiana boat.

    Gambling industry analysts said the Illinois and Indiana boats that Binion had purchased as a package are of roughly equal value, meaning the sale of the Illinois boat that Horseshoe ran for less than 18 months should easily translate into a more than $100 million profit.

    Guy Chipparoni, a spokesman for Horseshoe, said that profit calculation could be overstated because the company spent considerable amounts of money in legal fees to initially fight the Gaming Board decision.

    He said the company also incurred more costs because it moved its corporate headquarters and about 50 employees to Illinois when Binion first bought the Empress.

    “We are pleased that we were able to strike this agreement with an Illinois-based company,” Chipparoni said.

    Though gambling opponents were happy to see Binion announce his departure from Illinois, they also denounced the quick and hefty profit he turned.

    “Only in the most regulated industry in the U.S. do you get caught doing things wrong and then rewarded for it,” said Rev. Tom Grey, executive director of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. “I wish I could get regulated like that.”

    Fines in other states

    Binion’s troubles in Illinois began early last year after the Tribune revealed that the board, in approving his purchase of the Empress, had ignored recommendations from its own staff that the deal be blocked.

    Staff analysts had complained that Binion’s gambling operations in other states had been slapped with huge fines and repeatedly had entered into sham contracts with minority vendors in order to create the appearance of satisfying minority participation goals.

    Even in January, as Binion agreed to sell the Empress, the board leveled a $95,000 fine on Horseshoe for entering into a hard-to-explain, $1.5 million consulting contract with John Glennon, who served as finance committee chairman for Ryan.

    The sale of the Empress to Cellini’s firm would not have been possible had it not been for a controversial 1999 gambling law passed by the legislature and signed by Ryan.

    Prior to that, no firm was allowed to own more than one casino in the state. That restriction was abolished as part of the new law, which was designed to pave the way for a casino in Rosemont as well as for the first time allow gambling on boats tethered to the dock.

    Because Argosy already holds a license to operate the Alton casino, its purchase of the Joliet boat is not expected to raise concerns of regulators at the Gaming Board.

    Potential board conflict

    Even so, it could raise potential conflict of interest headaches for the board down the road. That is because of an appointment made recently by Ryan to fill a vacancy on the five-member board.

    Ryan named Ira Rogal, one of the state’s top lobbyists, to the board. One of the partners in Rogal’s lobbying firm is Gerald Shea, a former Democratic leader of the Illinois House, who was an investor along with Cellini in a Springfield hotel that benefited from a controversial state-backed construction loan.

    While more than $24 million is outstanding on the loan, the hotel partners have paid only $2.12 million. The last payment was made in 1997, and the matter is tied up in court in a dispute over a $10 million settlement proposed by state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka and opposed by state Atty. Gen. Jim Ryan.

    As chairman of the Argosy board, Cellini is the company’s largest individual shareholder, controlling Argosy holdings valued at $48 million, according to documents filed in March with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Efforts to reach Cellini on Monday were unsuccessful.

    For Argosy, the purchase of the Empress gives it a foothold in the lucrative Chicago market, where a huge population and strict limits on competition make it “one of the strongest gaming markets in the country,” said James Perry, Argosy president and chief executive officer.

    In Joliet, Argosy hopes to change the Empress from a casino with two riverboats to a single barge. “We have found that customers prefer a one-level casino,” he said.

    But Perry said the company won’t proceed with the plan until there’s a resolution to litigation that challenges the constitutionality of the state’s gambling act.

    If the lawsuit succeeds, it could eliminate the right that casinos now enjoy to conduct gambling at dockside, allowing patrons to come and go virtually round the clock. That rule led to a surge in casino revenues. Previously, boats were required to pull away from docks before allowing gambling to begin, effectively limiting the number of people that could go on board.

    While having nowhere near the regulatory difficulties as Binion, Argosy Gaming has been hit with six-figure fines in Missouri, Indiana and Illinois, public records show. Violations included mishandling casino cash and chips, failing to properly check backgrounds of key employees and failing to keep proper track of state taxes assessed per patron.

    Perry acknowledged that regulators over the years have assessed fines on Argosy ranging from about $5,000 to $125,000 for various violations.

    But Perry said the fines were not for any intentional misconduct, but rather for basic employee errors, such as allowing underage gamblers into the casino, miscalibrating coin machines and failing to properly record which employees held the keys to off-limits areas of the casino.

    “Employees make mistakes,” Perry said. “Those [fines] are consistent with what I know other operators have paid. … I think our compliance ranks right up there among the top of all gaming companies.”

    Tied to Kenosha proposal

    Argosy made headlines in recent months with an agreement to manage–but not own–a proposed Indian casino just north of the Illinois border in Kenosha, a project that Illinois lawmakers complained would drain dollars from casinos here. Argosy also agreed to provide up to $40 million to get the casino off the ground.

    But prospects for the Kenosha project dimmed earlier this year when new Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum took office and declared his opposition to any new, off-reservation, Indian casinos.


  88. - anon - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 4:33 am:

    why was she wearing a turtleneck today?


  89. - bob white - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 6:46 am:

    It is puzzling to me how people like scott fawell’s cellmate continue to be impressed by Blagojevich’s campaign, just as people were enamored with George Ryan’s campaign. In case anyone hasn’t been following the news, both operations were created by cheating and breaking the law. George Ryan’s campaign used massive amounts of free state work and Blagojevich’s campaign fundraising has brought it about a dozen state and federal investigations and pending indictments. So, does that campaign have more resources to put out web commercials quickly, etc.? Yes. But it broke the law to get the resource to do it. How many more times do we have to see this cycle in Illinois before people will stop being impressed by campaign operations that are funded by illegal acts.


  90. - Budget Watcher - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 6:57 am:

    I only partially agree with Steve Schnorf about Filan’s role in reviewing the JBT budget proposal. He is, of course, the administration’s expert on the budget, but it was pretty clear that yesterday he (and staff) functioned on behalf of the campaign, not as director of the state budget office. He needs to keep those roles separate, and yesterday he used state time and resources to produce a campaign’s message. That’s not how I envision my tax dollars being spent.

    Having said this, this is really just an ancillary issue, and the real focus should be on the budget proposal and it’s merits and/or faults.


  91. - bob white - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 7:35 am:

    schnorf is wrong on this. Topinka unveiled a proposal. Filan attacked it. It would be different if Topinka launched a pointed attack that he specifically responded to. she unveiled a comprehensive plan and he was trying to undermine it politically.


  92. - Roger - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 8:30 am:

    Isn’t Filan still getting paid for the vacation day? isn’t that pay still taxpayer money?


  93. - Squideshi - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 8:55 am:

    The Whitney campaign has issued a response.


  94. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 9:15 am:

    “Not an expansion of gambling”??!!

    Topinka may be the silliest, most dishonest politician in history. She doesn’t even seem to know what the truth is anymore.

    She’s unfit for any office.


  95. - Douglas - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 9:37 am:

    Anon…way to over react…and history has seen a lot worse than Judy Baar Topinka…try cracking open a book every now and then.


  96. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 9:43 am:

    Let’s move this conversation to today’s post, shall we?


  97. Pingback IlliniPundit.com » Blog Archive » Topinka Budget Plan - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 11:18 am:

    […] Details here.  Rich Miller has a bunch more here, and his commenters are great. Discuss if you’d like. […]


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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