SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn says he will veto legislation to upgrade the state’s electric grid through annual rate hikes, but he left reporters guessing about the precise fate of a gaming expansion plan.

By Andrew Thomason

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn says he will veto legislation to upgrade the state’s electric grid through annual rate hikes, but he left reporters guessing about the precise fate of a gaming expansion plan.

As legislators trickled out of the capital city following the end to the spring session, Quinn all but said he would use his amendatory veto powers of a bill allowing five more casinos in the state and video gaming at horse-race tracks and Illinois’ state fairground in Springfield, calling it “top heavy.”

“I think that’s way too excessive, and I think most people in Illinois, average people, when they take a look at the size of this, would say it’s excessive, it’s top heavy, it’s too much,” Quinn said Wednesday during a news conference.

An amendatory veto allows the governor to change or remove part, but not all, of a bill.

As it stands, the legislation puts new casinos in Chicago, Danville, Park City, Rockford and a to-be-determined location in Chicago’s south suburbs. Quinn said he could support a casino in Chicago if it was done properly. The governor did not say which proposed casinos he may cut.

Illinois has nine riverboat casinos, which also would be allowed to expand under the bill.

The gaming expansion passed both chambers, but not with the votes needed to override a veto.

If Quinn does use his amendatory veto pen and the Legislature doesn’t take up the changes during the fall veto session, the entire bill, not just the sections Quinn alters, would die.


Lawmakers sent Quinn a budget of $33.4 billion, about $2 billion less than what the governor asked for.

“It’s incomplete. I don’t think anybody who looks at it would say they would be happy,” Quinn said.

Quinn said he would examine it but would not say whether he would sign it. However, his executive powers only allow for reducing spending or crossing out certain budgetary line items. He cannot increase spending.

Quinn’s predecessor, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was known for calling special sessions of the Legislature during the summer months, when state budgets he opposed landed in his office. Quinn said he would not go that far, only that he would work with the Legislature to get more spending in areas like education and human services.

Democratic budget architect state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said lawmakers worked hard to agree to the budget, and they are not in the mood to change it now.

“We’ve cut for the first time into education, one of the hardest things to cut,” said Mautino. “The people from downstate gave up some (money) from the road fund and other state funds which would have been unthinkable” just a year ago.

There was a plan to tack on an additional $434 million in spending, about half of which would have gone to the Illinois State Board of Education for elementary and high schools. Quinn said he favored that plan, but it stalled in the state House.

Utility rate increase

Quinn was certain about his stance about the bill allowing the state’s two biggest utility companies — Commonwealth Edison Co. and Ameren Illinois — to charge customers more to make infrastructure upgrades.

“(When) Commonwealth Edison and Ameren show up and pass something that is gouging consumers and harming businesses that employ people, if the legislative members and the leaders let that go through, my job is to say no. We’re going to fight hard,” Quinn said.

The rate hikes would amount to an extra $3.40 a month for the next decade for Ameren customers and $3 a month for the next decade for ComEd customers.

Like the casino legislation, this plan did not get enough legislative votes to override a gubernatorial veto. But Smart Grid sponsor state Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, said there could be support to override a veto from Quinn.

“If we need to do something in the future, I certainly have people that I can go back to for their votes,” said McCarthy.

Workers’ Compensation

Quinn praised a plan that passed in the 11th hour of the General Assembly’s spring session to make major changes to the workers’ compensation system in Illinois.

“The workers’ compensation reform law, I think will go down in Illinois history as one the most important job-creating and job-preserving statutes that we’ve ever enacted,” Quinn said.

The plan reduces by 30 percent the amount doctors are paid to handle workers’ compensation cases and allows employers to create a network of doctors from which injured employees would have to pick for treatment.

Proponents of the measure said it could save businesses more than $500 million. The hope is that with a less generous system, workers’ compensation insurance premiums for businesses would start to decrease.

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