Friday, April 01, 2005

Same boats, shorter lines, more tax money. And no horses!

Facing a billion and change structural deficit in our state's 50-some billion dollar budget, Governor Blagojevich called for shorter lines and more places to gamble in our 10 licensed riverboat casinos. Nine are operating. Rosemont is fighting for the 10th license.

We're the only state with casinos that limit the number of slots and tables ('gaming positions' according to the Sun-Times account and the Governor's press release here). The proposal would be to double those positions. Apparently, there are lots of would-be gamblers waiting in line for the $5 blackjack table, and if there were more seats in the boats, then more suckers would hand their money over to the boat owners. At least there's a 70% marginal tax rate so the State gets a good chunk of the money -- but I'm sure those salaries and management expenses in the boats are fairly ridiculous, to show a smaller profit margin.

It's hard to get agitated over more seats in the same casino as an expansion of gambling. What's the difference if some senior citizen gets to throw their money away at a faster rate in the same casino instead of waiting in line to methodically drop one quarter at a time into a spinning, beeping machine? I guess there will be more money lost to the casino owners (and thus, more tax money for the schools), but it doesn't seem like a real expansion of gambling. A really crappy economic development strategy and a pretty solid way of impoverishing people who are bad at math, but not really an expansion of gambling. It's different than a new casino.

The accountablity and standards piece of the Gov's plan also sounds fairly solid (if not that big a deal -- see Rich Miller's piece on it here), but if he really wanted to 'rock the system', he'd try to challenge seniority-based teachers' contracts. Now *that* could help shake out some deadwood and get the burned out bureaucrats who are wasting our schoolkids' time out of the classrooms.

And one other *fantastic* part of the proposal: no new money for the horse racing industry. Those guys are unbelievably greedy. They currently get a direct grant from the state of something like $17 million every year -- just because the casinos create some competition for their tracks for gambling dollars. Well, boo hoo. Maybe we should start sending some money to every freaking restaurant in the State because casinos create competition for dining dollars as well. And maybe we should send money to every theatre company in the state because casinos create competition for entertainment dollars. If the horse racing guys get a dime out of this proposal, the Governor should veto it. (But knowing the Speaker, he's unlikely to call a gambling bill until the Governor makes a public commitment to accept the whole deal). So the game is on to ensure the horse racing guys, led by the Duchossois (Doo-sha-SCHAW . . . so very French) family, don't skim off any new school money.


Glenn Brown said...

and while your at it, slip me a couple bucks just because!

Vasyl said...

Like Dan, I can't get too worked up over the increase in blackjack tables and slot machines. But the money should go into the GRF (general revenue), not be dedicated for education. It's much more honest accounting. Gaming revenue is not a stable source of income. What's more, the money from gaming is going to be treated like lottery funds: they go to schools on paper only.

Plus, the education funding problem will not be solved with this plan.

This plan doesn't address any of the reasons to support HB 750.

Rich Miller said...

Thanks for the new subscription. When are you gonna pony up? Or am I going to have to float you?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps that's because there are no reasons to support 750?

Vasyl said...


If you think it's A-O.K. to have some school districts spending $5,000 per pupil, while others spend $18,000 -- then I suppose there is no reason to support HB 750.

If you think that it's perfectly fine to rely as heavily on property taxes (which are assessed regardless of ability to pay, unlike the income tax which is directly related to the ability to pay) -- then I can't argue that there's no reason to support HB 750.

If you think it's great to live in a state where the highest property tax rates (per EAV) are in school districts that can barely make ends meet -- then you should actively oppose HB 750.

I think the way we finance schools is unfair and outdated. I think public schools should have the resources to provide quality education for everyone, from Cairo to Waukegan. I think that we should reduce our reliance on property taxes because too many people end up paying too high a percentage of their income; while some very wealthy people end up paying a lower rate.

I'm like to hear suggestions other than HB 750, but I just can't see how anyone can make an argument that Illinois school financing shouldn't be reformed.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Rich -- given how well my pro bono and non-profit clients are paying so far, I'm going to to be sticking to the free blog versin of CapitolFax. But feel free to float me a subscription. . .I'll get that paid back to you really soon. . . .as soon as I start lobbying for the boats.

FightforJustice said...

Dan, that's a 70% tax on their gross!

Does Dan really contend that doubling positions on existing boats isn't really expansion, but doubling the number of boats is, even tho the number of positions would be the same?

FightforJustice said...

Vasyl, the disparity in funding is even more stark state to state. Shouldn't the feds assume most ed funding to eliminate those harsh disparities in funding between Mississippi and Illinois?

Vasyl said...



One of the great ironies of the W Bush Administration is that the same conservatives who justify reliance on property taxes to fund education under the mantra of "local control of schools" have enacted the most sweeping mandates on local schools.

There's a balance between local control and equity in educational funding and quality. So, I think there's a role for property taxes to fund education, and that exact equality in funding is not necessary. But the extent of the gaps between school districts in Illinois (and, as fightforjustice points out, between states) is cause for concern.

Are there any proposals out there dealing with inequity between states in education funding?

Anonymous said...

How can you get all teary-eyed about loan-shark check-cashing stores and support casinos that ravage poor communities? Sure, it'll raise tax money for "the children". So will legalizing heroin and setting up heroin stores in poor communities. Why are Progressives so gung-ho about such an obvious and cynical form of regressive taxation? I understand all your tax-the-rich Marxist stuff, but gambling exploits the poor, puts government in bed with organized crime, and runs legitimate businesses out of areas that need them the most. Is it because casinos are unionized? Is the Progressive labor movement that monolithic? What am I missing here? - CF P.S. We missed you in OKC.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

FightFor -- thanks for the tip. I didn't realize it was 70% of the gross. That is. . .a lot. Good. Better the state get the money than the connected investors. Is that 70% after a certain amount (like 10 million) or is that a flat 70% gross tax off all revenues? CF (sorry to miss you in OKC), I'm not an advocate of gambling, but I think the Gov's plan isn't really an expansion of gambling. I didn't realize they were unionized in Illinois. Are you sure? What legitimate businesses do the boats run out of an area?

Anonymous said...


How about a state-wide property tax?