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Senate passes legislation to allow Rockford casino, along with procurement and pension reform

SPRINGFIELD – The Rockford area may soon be closer to finally locking down a casino license, providing a major boost to the local economy, thanks to legislation sponsored by State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) that passed the Senate on May 17.

“So many of us have put in a lot of time trying to make this happen, and this is the next step,” said Sen. Syverson. “If we can push this across the finish line, it will bring in millions of dollars to our local economy.”

Senate Bill 7 would allow for casinos in Rockford and five other Illinois cities. It would also allow casinos to increase their number of gaming positions from 1,200 to 1,600. As part of the legislation, all of the up-front licensing fees for the new casinos would go to the state’s General Revenue Fund to help pay bills, with all of the other state revenue going to a fund to help pay for education.

The legislation previously passed in February, but was held due to the fact that it was tied to the other bills in the so-called “Grand Bargain” package. Before the most recent vote, the legislation was amended to be untied from the other legislation, freeing it to advance to the House.

“This would be an absolute game changer for our area, a major driver of new, good-paying jobs and economic activity,” said Sen. Syverson. “I believe we may finally have this on track to actually be signed into law.”

The Senate also passed procurement reform legislation, Senate Bill 8, which would remove costly red tape for government and school purchases, generating large savings for taxpayers.

“Put simply, this procurement reform proposal is good legislation that will make government operations more efficient and save the taxpayers millions every year,” said Sen. Syverson. “Unfortunately some of the remaining ‘Grand Bargain’ bills just aren’t ready yet. I remain hopeful that continued negotiations can finally get us to a good, balanced budget with the necessary common-sense reforms that can let our economy grow statewide.”

The Senate also passed a bipartisan pension reform bill that is the result of negotiations between Governor Bruce Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton. The plan largely relies on a “consideration model,” which gives employees a choice, to ensure that it fits within the Illinois Constitution’s strict pension language.

“Pension payments are closing in on $8 billion per year, our single biggest budgetary item,” said Senator Syverson. “This plan will save us over $1 billion per year that we can spend on building roads and bridges, improving school funding, and improving our human service programs.”

In addition, Senate Democrats rammed through several other bills on party line votes. These included a school funding bill that would pour more money into Chicago, along with a bill to start $7 billion in state borrowing, and a bloated budget that is unbalanced.

“My hope is that democrats will return to the bargaining table to deal with these other issues so that we can have a real bipartisan solution and a truly balanced budget,” said Senator Syverson. “We still have time, but we need to work together.”

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