Mayor Lori Lightfoot is heading to Springfield on Tuesday in hopes of eking out a deal to make a proposed Chicago casino more attractive to potential developers by reducing the cut that would go to the city and state.
Lightfoot will arrive as the legislature reconvenes for its last three scheduled days this year. When legislators began the six-day fall session last month, they were facing two requests from City Hall: fix the casino tax structure and give Chicago permission to implement a graduated tax on high-price real estate transfers.
But spokeswoman Anel Ruiz said Monday that Lightfoot’s day trip to the Capitol “is primarily focused on the casino.” Negotiations with lawmakers continued over the weekend and “we’re moving forward, which is a good sign,” said Rep. Bob Rita, a Blue Island Democrat who is the House point person on gambling legislation.
The real estate transfer tax plan appears stalled for now. It has no legislative sponsor and faces pushback from a group of Chicago Democratic lawmakers who are demanding a large percentage of the revenues be directed to relieving homelessness in the city — an idea the mayor has so far rejected.
The mayor’s office did not provide further details about Lightfoot’s Springfield visit besides providing a statement touting the real estate transfer tax as a “progressive and fair revenue priority.” […]
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office on Monday also did not have information about the mayor’s visit and did not answer questions about whether they were given a heads up. […]
Lightfoot has previously denied claims that she has left Pritzker in the dark. But in June, the governor learned of the mayor’s plan to try to get the state to take over the city’s pension funds via the media. The governor promptly nixed that plan.
Procedurally, it’s not the end of the world if Lightfoot does not get her preferred casino plan and the real estate transfer tax passed this week. But it may be a bad look politically if she can’t produce either win, and it will once again spark talk of a much dreaded property tax hike for Chicagoans.
The city has two pension funds that are around 3-4 years from insolvency. She needs that casino money ASAP.
* Speaking of Springfield…
But a Springfield insider close to the gambling talks said there’s a perception among some legislators that Lightfoot’s office — while dealing with a teacher strike, a massive budget deficit and turnover at the top of the police department — hasn’t put in the necessary legwork to land a deal.
”You need the mayor’s office to be the shuttle diplomat between the Senate Dems, House Dems and governor’s office, and that doesn’t seem to be happening,” the insider said. “There seems to be a will but not a way.”
A mayoral source called that claim “nonsense.”
“Our staff and the mayor herself have been talking with Senate and House leadership and [the] Governor’s staff non-stop for weeks on this. Legislators have come in for briefings. The fifth floor is working the roll call aggressively,” the source said. “This narrative is absurd and willfully dishonest.”
I already addressed this topic with subscribers, so I’ll just leave it at that. Suffice it to say that I don’t believe the narrative is absurd or dishonest.
* Meanwhile, this claim by BGA President David Greising is inaccurate…
To make her 2020 Chicago budget plan work, Mayor Lori Lightfoot still needs Springfield’s help on at least two key elements—a new tax on home sales and changes to a bill that would enable Chicago to build a casino.
Casino revenue is not included in Lightfoot’s FY20 budget plan. I posted the rest of Greising’s column late Friday afternoon, wherein Lightfoot said she wasn’t supporting a constitutional amendment to reduce pension benefits because Gov. Pritzker opposed it. Her staff later walked that back, as they have done time and time again, after Pritzker’s office claimed that the mayor has told the governor she opposes a constitutional amendment.
* Lightfoot heading to Springfield to push casino plan - A political deal on a Chicago gambling facility may be within reach, but the mayor’s separate bid to raise $50 million by boosting the real estate transfer tax appears stalled