Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday said he's been meeting with all kinds of people with an interest in the massive gambling expansion plan on his desk -- including suburban mayors who oppose it.
Quinn was in DuPage County to make three stops to sign legislation. During an event in Naperville, the governor responded to several questions from the Daily Herald about the tumultuous state budget.
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Q. Are you being swayed by any of the people who are trying to talk you into signing the gambling bill?
A. What I am trying to do is hear from every side. We've had proponents of the gambling bill. For example, (Thursday) a group from Danville is coming up. And the sponsors have been in. They've had a chance to speak.
I also invite those who are opposed to the bill. We had some mayors last week from Aurora, Joliet, Elgin, Des Plaines. They weren't favorable to the bill, and I listened to them.
Then (Thursday), the head of the gaming board (Aaron Jaffe), that's the regulation board for gambling, is coming in. So we're going to look at every aspect of the bill from top to bottom.
Q. So you haven't been swayed one way or the other yet?
A. Swayed is the wrong word. I think it's better to listen and take notes and then at the end make a final decision.
Q. Do you have any particular thoughts about slots at Arlington Park?
A. That's part of the bill. They call them racinos. It's not just there. There would be about six tracks. We have to understand this is a massive expansion of gambling in Illinois.
The answer is, yes, I am concerned because we have to be careful that we don't have a top-heavy situation where the entire revenue from this particular area collapses because they're cannibalizing each other.
Q. You made some news when you said you're ready to go to court over the decision not to give pay raises to state employees, even though the raises are guaranteed in their contracts.
A. I think we complied with the law. The law says everything regarding the raises and collective bargaining agreement is subject to appropriations. And the General Assembly refused to appropriate that money.
Q. Couldn't you just keep the raises intact and lay people off instead?
A. You need to get the job done, too. I think we have the fewest number of state employees per capita of any state in the union right now. The notion of just laying people off who are doing important work, I think the raises are less important than keeping folks on the job with a salary -- even if it isn't with the raise -- to do the work of the people.
Q. The American Federation for State, County and Municipal Employees, the state's largest employees union, was able to prevent layoffs before via court action. Is that a concern?
A. Well, what happened in the previous situation is AFSCME filed a lawsuit ... and a mediator was appointed. Part of the mediation was that the union made some concessions and so did we. I always believe in negotiation and mediation. However, if the General Assembly doesn't appropriate money for something to be paid, I can't wave a magic wand and say "Here's the money."
Q. On Wednesday the Daily Herald reported that the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission has been paid more than $2 million in salaries over the past seven years while the board has issued less than $30,000 in fines during that time. Do you feel that's a proper use of taxpayer dollars?
A. We have two governors who have been in big trouble. One is in jail and the other is going to jail. I think the people of Illinois would rather have an ethics process that includes this commission that prevents bad things from happening in the first place.
There's a great cost to the taxpayers from corruption. So if we prevent corruption, that saves taxpayers a lot of money. And there's a whole process. They have a board, yes. But they also have an inspector general and a whole system that's set up to prevent bad things from happening in the first place.
I think ethics is a good investment. It creates a great deal of savings for the public.
Q. Should commission members take on more responsibilities to justify the salaries they receive?
A. I am open-minded to any kind of enhancements on their work. But I think it's important to have a neutral commission that hears the evidence and provides due process.