State pols will go their own way on guns

But tougher measures not a sure thing

President Barack Obama outlined gun-control measures he wants enacted by Congress that would then obviously apply nationwide.

In perhaps the least surprising development of the week, Gov. Pat Quinn said he wholeheartedly supports the president. When has he not? It would have been news if he disagreed.

Meanwhile, Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan’s top lieutenant, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said the Illinois Legislature shouldn’t wait on Congress to act and should pursue its own gun-control measures. Currie, though, acknowledged that it is not a slam dunk, despite Democrats now holding supermajorities in both the House and Senate.

Gun control, like abortion, is not a party-line issue. It’s a regional issue. Rep. Sue Scherer of Decatur and Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill are two new members of those Democratic supermajorities. During the fall campaign, both said they support concealed carry, not an issue supported by gun-control advocates.

Gun-control measures and gun-rights issues, like concealed carry, are debated almost every spring session in the General Assembly. There’s no doubt that this year the debate on those issues will get even more attention than they have in the past. But predicting an outcome at this time is a fool’s errand.

No help needed

to skirt issues

Some folks are grousing that waging another gun-control debate in Illinois will distract lawmakers from other important issues, like the state’s myriad financial problems and the causes of them, particularly pension funding.

They might have a point, if the Legislature had shown any willingness so far to actually do anything about those issues other than talk about how dire the situation is and how something must be done. They’ve been quite adept at skirting the issues without the distraction of a major gun-control debate.

So in that sense, debating gun-control measures will give the Legislature something to do while bobbing and weaving around the money stuff.

Oh, and Quinn’s office confirmed he will veto the latest gambling expansion bill sent to him. There had been some speculation he might use the bill as a bargaining chip to secure pension reform.

He could have, maybe, but he pretty well trashed the bill in 2011 when lawmakers approved it but did not send it to him. Even though Quinn has a well-deserved reputation for switching positions, it would have taken a spin job of historic proportions to explain signing the bill after what he said about it.

Push for tax

permanency

Guess you could say the push to make permanent the 67 percent temporary income tax hike has begun.

Quinn released some preliminary budget projections last week, including for a couple of years down the road.

These are only the governor’s budget office estimates of what will happen. Ultimately, it is still the General Assembly that decides how money should be spent.

Still, Quinn’s projections underscore the financial realities that lawmakers will be dealing with if most of the income tax hike is allowed to expire at the end of calendar 2014.

Quinn estimates the money available for education programs will be nearly $2 billion less than it is this year. Likewise, human-services programs will be cut $1 billion from what they are projected to be next year. Money available for government services, i.e. employees and their salaries, will be cut another $450 million.

Whether anyone is paying attention yet is debatable. The tax hike will be around for another year and a half, and if lawmakers are adept at anything, it’s delaying things. But clearly, it’s an early warning about how ugly things will get if the tax hike expires and pension costs aren’t controlled.

Even some of the General Assembly’s budget hawks may be hard-pressed to put a smiley face on cuts like that.

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