SPRINGFIELD -- Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn faced discord from both union members and those who want Quinn to sign a bill expanding gambling in Illinois Wednesday, as he tried to rally a sparse crowd of Democrats at the Illinois State Fair.

SPRINGFIELD -- Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn faced discord from both union members and those who want Quinn to sign a bill expanding gambling in Illinois Wednesday, as he tried to rally a sparse crowd of Democrats at the Illinois State Fair.


On Governor’s Day, Quinn drove past scores of union members protesting his decision to cancel pay raises for 30,000 state workers. Once he got to the Director’s Lawn at the fairgrounds, he was met by dozens of people in orange shirts, urging him to approve a bill that would bring slot machines and harness racing to the fairgrounds nine months a year.


Public employee unions also stepped on the party-unity message at the pre-rally Democratic County Chairmen’s breakfast. At a news conference, one union leader suggested labor could withhold financial support over the pay raise issue.


“We can’t just give money away to politicians that turn around and screw us,” said Tim Drea, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.


The governor blamed state lawmakers.


“Sometimes you gotta tell your friends not what they want to hear, but what they need to know,” Quinn said. “I don’t know why they (union members) constantly focus only on me when the General Assembly is the one that didn’t appropriate the money in the first place.”


But state Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, said the governor mishandled the situation. Lawmakers expected Quinn to hold down spending by not filling vacant positions, Sullivan said.


“If you enter into a contract and you make an agreement, and then you go back and say, ‘Well, I’m not going to adhere to that contract’ … it’s going to make it pretty tough to negotiate down the road,” he said.


Quinn: ‘Who needs slots?’


There also appeared to be little progress in the impasse over the gambling bill, which would create five new casinos, allow slot machines at horse-racing tracks and provide for harness racing and slot machines for most of the year at the fairgrounds.


Quinn said he has met with opponents and supporters of the bill and hinted that he might make a decision before the end of the summer. But he reiterated his qualms about slot machines, particularly at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.


“Harness racing has been at the fair for a long time, but when you put in slot machines, that’s a wholly different situation,” Quinn said. “Who needs slot machines when you have (Grandstand entertainer) MC Hammer?”


Josh Carter, 37, of Williamsville, who owns three horses with his wife, Carla, said slot machines at tracks would increase purses and bring racing back to Illinois.


“The cost of feed, fuel, all of the expenses have gone up and up and up, and yet we’re racing for about a third of what we used to race for in this state. The math doesn’t work.”


 


Too much gambling?


State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, one of the gambling bill’s sponsors, said slot machines are important to the bill, but supporters are open to discussing any changes the governor suggests.


However, Sullivan said downstate lawmakers might not support a follow-up bill if slot machines are excluded.


Link said he thinks the governor and the bill’s sponsors are 75 percent of the way toward a resolution.


Quinn also hinted at a timetable. “I think here by the end of the summer, we’ll have some basic principles that we have to have,” he said.


Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.