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In a whirlwind end of session, the Illinois legislature progressed much of first-term Gov. J.B. Prtizker's agenda, including legalizing recreational marijuana and sports betting, plus approving a $40 billion state spending plan.

The legislature took a sharp turn from the yearslong stalemate Illinois faced under former Gov. Bruce Rauner. If Pritzker signs the rest of the approved bills, Illinois residents will ring in the new year with several new laws and some new fees.

Proponents argue many of the approved bills, if signed into law, would boost Illinois' economy. Some claim recreational marijuana, sports betting and infrastructure improvements could grow the state's workforce and tourism.

In the Quad-Cities, funding for the Moline-to-Chicago passenger rail project, included in a $45 billion capital bill, is expected to do the same, said Paul Rumler, president and CEO of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce.

"Passenger rail is a lot more than tourism," Rumler said. "Selling the Quad-Cities as connected to Chicago will help us retain workforce and population that might otherwise go to Chicago, for example." 

At the same time, business leaders continue to voice concerns over Illinois gradually hiking the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, arguing it'll strain employers' ability to start and retain businesses in the state. Some also worry higher prices for gas, cigarettes and online sales could hurt the state.

"It's going to be a different year, and it's something we need to closely monitor and pay attention to," said Dave Herrell, CEO of Visit Quad-Cities. "We need to make sure we're working with our elected officials and that we're staying close to those conversations. It's hard to forecast right now what all of this will potentially look like." 

Here's a look at some of the end-of-session actions that'll affect residents and businesses in the Quad-Cities.

Rebuild Illinois capital bill

The Chamber has lobbied for the state to appropriate funding for the passenger rail project in the Quad-Cities for more than a decade. And finally, the work paid off.

The legislature approved Pritzker's $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital appropriations bill, intended to fix the state's roads, bridges and schools. The bill includes $225 million in funding for the Moline-to-Chicago passenger rail line. 

The state and railroad still need to reach an agreement before the money can be used, but the approved appropriations were a win for passenger rail advocates, Rumler said. 

The Rebuild Illinois bill also included $9 million for the third phase of construction at Western Illinois University's Quad-Cities campus. 

Higher gas costs, other fees

To pay for infrastructure improvements, the bill relies on several increased taxes and fees. 

Illinois' 19-cent gas tax will be doubled to 38 cents per gallon, beginning July 1, under the plan. The increase has some gas station and convenience store owners worried they'll lose even more business to the Iowa side of the Quad-Cities. 

"While I recognize this package is not perfect, constituents can rest assured that when they fill up their gas tanks, that money is going straight toward paying for transportation-related projects," said State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, in a statement.

The infrastructure bill also increases vehicle registration and driver's license fees, raises taxes on cigarettes and e-cigarettes and increases the sales tax collected on online sales. 

Recreational marijuana

Perhaps garnering the most headlines is the passage of legal recreational marijuana. 

The bill, which would take effect Jan. 1, would allow residents age 21 and older to possess 30 grams of cannabis, five grams of concentrate, or cannabis-infused edibles with no more than 500 milligrams of THC. 

Advocates expect sales of recreational marijuana to boost the state's income, add jobs, grow businesses and attract more people to Illinois. Researchers have estimated the legalization could create 23,000 new jobs at more than 2,600 businesses across the state, according to the Illinois Economic Policy Institute. 

Sports betting

Lawmakers approved a massive bill to expand statewide gambling and legalize sports betting, as another way to fund state projects and infrastructure improvements.

Illinois would follow Iowa's lead in legalizing sports betting, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year giving states the authority to legalize sports gambling. 

Iowa casinos are hoping to offer sports betting as early as this coming fall. Some in Illinois are hoping for the same, but it remains unclear how long it will take to launch the system. 

Graduated income tax

On the November 2020 ballot, Illinois residents will vote on replacing the state's flat income tax rate with a graduated tax.

The graduated income tax would take effect in 2021 if voters ratify the constitutional change in the general election in November 2020. 

The proposed amendment would increase taxes for the wealthy and lower taxes for 97% of taxpayers, or those earning $250,000 a year or less, by applying different tax rates on different levels of income. Now, everyone pays a flat income tax of 4.95 percent.

The governor proposed the change in an effort to fix Illinois' finances. But, some business owners worry the tax rate will put pressure on businesses and cause some to move out of the state.

Some business advocates have argued the graduated income tax is another strike against businesses already struggling to plan to pay employees a higher minimum wage. 

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