Emanuel calls on Quinn to work on gambling, other agenda items
Nov 13, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said today he hopes Gov. Pat Quinn will be a part of agreements on gambling expansion and other important agenda items in Springfield, despite a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly that might enable fellow Democrats to sidestep the governor.
"I think it's time for Springfield to work on a number of subjects, and the governor has to be a part of that," Emanuel said, when asked whether he would try to cut deals with lawmakers independent of Quinn.
The mayor cited a casino in Chicago as one of the contentious issues he wants to see resolved. Quinn blocked an Emanuel-backed bill that would have created a license for a city-owned Chicago casino last year by refusing to sign it at a time Democrats did not have enough votes to override him without Republican help.
But when just-elected lawmakers are seated in the Legislature in January, there will be 71 Democrats in the House and 40 in the Senate -- potentially enough to override a Quinn veto.
Quinn has scoffed at suggestions that lawmakers would seek to push legislation through against his will, saying he has a good working relationship with legislative leaders.
The governor says his first priority is ensuring lawmakers pass reforms to the state's troubled public employee pension program by Jan. 9. That's when the new crop of lawmakers is scheduled to be sworn in, and it could become more difficult to round up votes.
Historically, lawmakers who know they aren't returning to office have been more likely to take politically risky votes during their last days at the Capitol.
"My number one issue in the legislature is getting pension reform, we must get this done in a bi-partisan way," Quinn said Tuesday. "I really feel that all the legislators who are in the General Assembly now have more work to do before their term is up. And we want to make sure the entire term is used in order to get big things done for the public, for the people."
Hurdles remain. One key provision being pushed by Democrats would shift some costs of teacher pension on to suburban and downstate school districts. Republicans say the move would drive up property taxes and have indicated they would oppose such changes.
Emanuel said he too favors lawmakers acting on pension legislation before the current legislative session ends in early January. But he also reiterated his desire to see the new legislature act on issues from legalizing gay marriage to moving ahead with a casino bill.
"I was advocating -- as have other people for 25 years -- a casino for the city of Chicago, but one in which I committed all the resources will go into school modernization, building new schools and modernizing our schools so our kids will have the best facilities to learn in," Emanuel said while discussing his wish list for Springfield.
Emanuel spoke to reporters at Austin Polytechnical Academy High School on the West Side, where he announced the city will invest $1.25 million in an advanced manufacturing program already underway at the school. The money is part of a tax incentive payment United Airlines will give back to the city because the company plans to leave the downtown building it redeveloped with the payment.
Emanuel said the additional funds will help train more high school students and adults to get good paying manufacturing jobs available in the area.
The mayor also said he's confident President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans will find a way to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" looming Jan. 1, when taxes will increase and government spending cuts will kick in automatically unless a deal is reached. Economists have said inaction could lead to another recession.
"There is an overall macro-economics, it will have an impact on the city of Chicago, depending on what decision they make," Emanuel said. "But I have confidence, now that the election is over, and the president won convincingly, that there's actually a good environment for an agreement that actually lays the path."
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