* The final budget deal is a mess. There is no deal. It’s not even near final. They aren’t even close.
“I think the lines in the sand have been drawn so deep, it’s been very difficult to come to some type of agreement,” said State Rep. Marlow Colvin, D-Chicago.
* And stuff like this, tucked into the gaming bill, just makes it more difficult to get anything done…
Nearly two dozen female and minority investors in the failed Emerald Casino could get bailed out of their multimillion-dollar, bad investment under a massive gambling expansion backed by Gov. Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones.
Tucked within the 218-page gambling bill is a controversial provision that could allow the clout-heavy group to recoup $32.8 million lost on the Emerald deal and have an ownership stake in one of four new casinos proposed for Chicago and the suburbs.
Lawmakers from both parties and a top government watchdog condemned the plan, questioning why taxpayers should be expected to swallow the losses of the politically influential group or to wade anywhere near the legal morass involving Emerald.
* As I told subscribers this morning, there are a whole lot of other problems with this gaming bill. Here are just a couple more, but the list is long, including, but not limited to, the $40 million annual Chicago State subsidy…
But the fine print of the current plan is raising both eyebrows and opposition at the Capitol.
As proposed, the state would legalize and license bookies to take horse racing bets over the phone or Internet. Horse tracks would be able to create electronic poker networks that could allow people to gamble online from their homes.
* The fact that the governor’s former chief of staff is lobbying for the tracks is not helping the bill’s credibility much…
As talk of gambling has surfaced in recent days as a way to help plug holes in the state’s budget, Monk signed on May 22 to represent the Racing Associations of Illinois, which is based at Balmoral Park Racetrack in Crete, according to state records. Horse-racing interests want legalized slot machines at the tracks as part of any gambling deal.
* The rancor has put the legislative leaders on a dangerous collision course, and yesterday’s meeting between Gov. Blagojevich and the entire House Democratic caucus didn’t move the ball forward at all…
Gov. Blagojevich went before House Democrats for more than two hours Monday to try to broker a budget deal but left with some members predicting an agreement is more remote than ever.
The governor appealed to House Democrats to back him on a budget or risk letting Republicans dictate terms of a deal if the General Assembly spills into overtime Thursday. But lawmakers said the governor seemed unwilling to compromise.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think it looks very good for an adjournment date for this Thursday unless he’s playing a great game of chicken,” said Rep. Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago), chairman of the Illinois House Legislative Black Caucus.
* The basic disagreement is over the scope of the governor’s proposals…
Several Democrats emerged from the meeting saying there remains a huge gap between what the governor wants to spend and what House members think is a realistic spending increase. Blagojevich remained adamant that he wants lawmakers to approve his universal health-care plan, even though lawmakers have made it clear they won’t approve the tax hikes needed to pay for it.
* More on that topic…
Many lawmakers consider the plan too big, especially after other recent expansions of health care programs. It would cost at least two billion dollars a year and cover people making up to four times the federal poverty level.
Senator William Delgado compares the ambitious plan to trying to eat a large pizza all at once — “It’s not going to happen.”
* Afterwards, the governor attempted to blame the House Democrats and Speaker Madigan for the impasse, which just threw fuel on the fire…
The Democratic governor emerged from the meeting and lashed out at House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago and his Democratic members, suggesting that it will be their fault if an agreement cannot be worked out before the General Assembly’s scheduled May 31 adjournment deadline.
* More tax and spend and end-of-session stories, compiled by Paul…
* Democrats skeptical of Governor’s call
* Illinoize: Gov: it’s your turn, House Dems
* Illinois would OK more casinos to fund health plan
* Governor battling lawmakers’ lack of enthusiasm for health care
* Seven steps to a state budget
* Highlights of governor’s health care plan
* Sweeney: Governor’s health plan pushed in casinos
* Morrissey to back push for Rockford casino