CAPITOL BRIEFS: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019

CAPITOL BRIEFS: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019

Policy group: Legalized sports gambling could take in $100 million annually


SPRINGFIELD – The state of Illinois could see $100 million in increased annual revenue by legalizing sports gambling, according to a joint report released this week by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois Project for Middle Class Renewal.

The topic has been on the table since a May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision paved the way for states to legalize gambling. Ten states have already done so, according to the report.

The report also said legalized sports gambling would increase gaming industry revenues by $565 million annually; create more than 2,500 new jobs at nearly 90 licensed locations in Illinois; shrink the illegal black market for sports betting; fund programs that treat gambling addiction; and fund public investments in education and infrastructure.

“However, the tax revenues from sports betting will not solve Illinois’ fiscal issues and should be weighed against the potential costs of gambling addiction,” the report said.

Several other states have introduced legislation to legalize gambling since the Supreme Court decision. In Illinois, the gambling legalization bills were introduced last session by Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) and Rep. Tim Butler (R-Peoria). Harris has reintroduced his proposal this session.

The ILEPI report said both of those bills had flaws, and cited a ProPublica report which showed a video gaming expansion passed in the state has generated less revenue than expected.

“The investigative (ProPublica) report should be a reminder to both lawmakers and voters that assumptions matter in forecasting economic activity and tax revenue. The study is also a reminder that gaming expansions are not panaceas that can resolve Illinois’ fiscal issues,” the ILEPI report said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during the campaign that he would support legalization and regulation of sports gambling.


Comptroller seeks more data from Illinois Medicaid MCOs

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is backing legislation that would require insurance companies that manage much of the state’s Medicaid program to publish more information about how promptly they are reimbursing claims.

The insurance companies, known as managed care organizations, or MCOs, contract with the state to manage the care of individuals enrolled in Medicaid. Among other things, that involves working with patients to make sure they receive routine exams and preventive care, and coordinating services provided by their primary physicians and other specialists.

The goal of a managed care system is to reduce costs and improve health outcomes by preventing the need for many emergency room visits and the complications that can result when patients don’t receive follow-up care.

Last year, Illinois greatly expanded the managed care system to make it available in all counties. But in a statement Wednesday, Mendoza said it is difficult for her office to know what happens to the roughly $63 billion the state now spends over the contract's four years on managed care after the money is handed over to the MCOs.

“I frequently hear from providers whose Medicaid payments have been delayed. They often have no idea when their payments might come,” Mendoza said. “Providers, like nursing homes in rural and low-income communities, rely on reimbursements from MCOs to keep their doors open and serve vulnerable populations.”

Mendoza said she is urging lawmakers to pass legislation, already introduced in both chambers, that would require MCOs to report at least quarterly on their websites the total number of claims they receive for that quarter, the number and amounts of claims paid and information detailing how long it takes them to process claims.

The primary sponsors of the bills are Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) and Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview).


Mayors lay out plan to consolidate local pension funds

SPRINGFIELD – A working group of public officials, including mayors from across Illinois, is pursuing legislation to reform and consolidate the state’s more than 650 public safety pension funds.

Consolidating funds would ensure taxpayer and employee contributions go directly to pensions instead of duplicative overhead or administrative expenses, according to a news release Wednesday from the Illinois Municipal League, a lobbying group representing units of local government.

The IML said the reforms are necessary because smaller local pension funds see lower returns on investments than larger consolidated funds. As a result, many communities across Illinois are forced to choose between funding basic municipal services or making pension contributions.

Democratic Sen. Steven Landek, who serves as the mayor of Bridgeview, and Republican Rep. Ryan Spain, who previously served as a member of the Peoria City Council, introduced the companion bills in the Senate (Senate Bills 1106 through 1112) and House (House Bills 1566 through 1572), respectively.

“The current public safety pension system is unaffordable for local taxpayers and unsustainable for future pension benefit recipients. We can and must do better, and that starts with consolidating municipal public safety pension funds," said Brad Cole, IML executive director. “None of our proposals call for benefit reductions. These consolidation efforts are intended to stabilize pension funds and relax the financial burden on taxpayers.”

Members of the working group include mayors from Peoria, Palos Hills, Naperville, Barrington and Macomb, as well as former state Sen. Pamela Althoff and former state Rep. Elaine Kekritz among others.

Jeff Rogers

Jeff RogersJeff Rogers

Jeff has more than 30 years’ experience working for newspapers as a reporter and editor. He was the editor of daily newspapers in northern Illinois and Wisconsin before joining as Capitol News Illinois’ editor, where he oversees the news service’s development, growth and fundraising. He grew up in Lanark in northwest Illinois and has a journalism degree from Bradley University in Peoria.

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