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Chicago Casino Tax Break Pushed By Rahm Emanuel Costs IL Schools $100 Million


Illinois Democrats, Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have been in a squabble about a massive casino expansion that Illinois legislators passed last spring. The city-run casino would bring in revenue for Emanuel but Quinn has expressed concerns over gambling regulation and that the tax provisions for the casino are "regressive." The Chicago Sun-Times reports Tuesday that a recent state anlaysis backs Quinn's claims, revealing that the Emanuel-pushed tax breaks for casinos would end up costing Illinois's schools $100 million over two years.

“I think it’s very important our state invest the maximum it can in education from birth on, so anything that would jeopardize that, I think, is suspect. We don’t want casino operators to make a lot of money for themselves but shortchange children through proper contributions to the school assistance fund. That’s where I’m coming from,” said Quinn to the Sun-Times. Quinn has still not been forwarded the legislation by the State Senate, and can still veto or rewrite the 400-page gambling bill.

Emanuel's provisions in the bill reduces the tax rate on the highest-grossing casinos from 50% to 20%. The Mayor's staff argues that the provision would help recoup start-up costs for a casino and will pay for infrastructure needs across Chicago.  The Emanuel provision reducing the tax rate, however, will bring $123 million less to the state coffers writes the Sun-Times, and no other state has a declining tax rate for high-grossing casinos according to the Department of Revenue analysis.

In addition to the bill's effect on public education in the state, the Chicago Tribune writes that the bill "essentially excludes the Gaming Board from areas where illicit political clout or organized crime have intruded at other casinos."

The Illinois House Representative sponsoring the bill argues that the declining tax rate for casinos would not hurt Illinois school children, and schools statewide would stand to gain from the casinos' $1billion-plus windfall in revenues.

“If there’s $1 billion in new money on the table that isn’t earmarked, we should earmark more for education. If we have to hold education harmless, it’s easy to put in the trailer bill,” Democratic State Rep. Lou Lang said to the Sun-Times. “It’s a stretch to say education won’t get this money. Education will get this money if we decide education gets that money.”

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