Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Quinn Plays High Stakes Game of Chicken with Chicago Tourism

Rich Miller of Capitol Fax and others are reporting that Gov. Pat Quinn will file an amendatory veto of the McCormick Place reform bill. The bill covers a lot of ground in the operations of Chicago's main exposition and conference center.

While those trade shows don't directly affect Southern Illinois tourism, it's the convention market in Chicago that funds the lion share of the state's bed tax collections, that in turn funds tourism throughout the state.

In other words, if Chicago suffers, we too will suffer eventually. Having both attended conferences at McCormick Place as well as worked as an exhibitor I've heard plenty of horror stories to know that reform is needed.

Now major trade shows that have been in Chicago for decades are threatening to pull out for bigger venues in Vegas or Orlando. The reform bill passed unanimously in both chambers, yes there is bipartisan votes on major issues in Springfield, they're rare, but they do occasionally exist.

Now Quinn wants changes in labor rules to the benefit of the unions (which lost in the bill), better succession rules in place (which isn't a bad idea), and a repeal in the doubling of the taxi tax on cab fares originating at O'Hare or Midway airports.

The existing tax already funds McCormick Place operations. Three-quarters of the new tax will fund Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau promotions for big conventions and trade shows and the remaining to fund promotions of the big shows at the Rosemont Convention Center near O'Hare, which is the region's second major exhibition hall.

Miller says lawmakers will likely override the veto. The question is whether the governor will go through with the veto and return it back to the legislature in time for a second vote.

It's a big enough economic deal for Chicago that the Democratic leadership are expected to keep lawmakers in session to deal with it. The big trade shows have already thrown down deadlines for action before they take their show elsewhere.

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