Friday, January 11, 2008

Governor ups ante in transit game

If you care about this transit issue, know that the governor has thrown a trump card into the mix at the wrong time. There isn't long period between now and the "doomsday" deadline where the CTA will cut services, workers, and raise fares. His trump card is allowing seniors to ride for free. Here's more from the Chicago Tribune...
Gov. Rod Blagojevich raised the stakes in the political battle over funding Chicago-area mass transit, saying he would only endorse a sales-tax increase lawmakers sent him Thursday if they also agree to give senior citizens free rides on local trains and buses.

Cornered by fellow Democrats after nearly a year of maneuvering on both sides, Blagojevich made the brand new demand as he sought to soften the political damage of breaking his long-held vow to veto a sales tax increase.

Transit officials and their supporters reluctantly accepted the governor's challenge but worried that the funding bill—which had barely passed the legislature hours earlier—might not survive a second trip next week.

Service cuts and fare hikes scheduled for Jan. 20 at the CTA and Pace suburban bus service were still in place, pending a final agreement. Metra suburban rail fares are also scheduled to go up Feb. 1.

"We can't say that all's well that ends well, because this is not over yet," said Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston), a chief sponsor of the transit bill.

Blagojevich said he decided to reverse his position on vetoing a sales tax to avert a transit crisis.

"I think it is wrong to raise taxes," Blagojevich said. "I believe people are paying more than their fair share. I believe people should pay less in taxes, not more in taxes."

He said the additional language he proposed for the bill would reduce the impact of the new tax on senior citizens, especially those on fixed incomes.

"I will take what I believe to be a lemon and turn it into lemonade," Blagojevich said, surrounded by lawmakers and transit leaders less than an hour after the bill passed the legislature.

The sales-tax package eventually will be worth $530 million through the increase of a quarter-cent-per-dollar tax hike in Cook County and a half-cent in the five collar counties. Some of the money would come from Chicago raising its real estate transfer tax, a move that Realtors maintained would slap another closing cost surprise on homeowners.

Lawmakers also embraced the legislation because it contains proposed reforms in the CTA's employee pension, health-care and retiree-benefits programs and gives sweeping new powers to the Regional Transportation Authority.

With the exception of the governor's new twist—which he plans to make in an amendatory veto—the legislation is largely the same bill introduced during the 2007 spring session of the legislature. But it quickly became mired in an ongoing, three-way power struggle between Blagojevich and two fellow Chicago Democrats, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones.

Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) predicted the Senate, which passed the bill Thursday without a single vote to spare, would go along with the changes when the governor makes them.

A Madigan spokesman likewise predicted the House would accept the changes, saying the speaker "wanted to congratulate the governor for breaking his campaign promise not to raise taxes."

No comments:

Post a Comment

PLEASE READ FIRST!!!! Comment Moderating and Anonymous Comment Policy

While anonymous comments are not prohibited we do encourage you to help readers identify you so that other commenters may respond to you. Either read the moderating policy for how or leave an identifier (which could be a nickname for example) at the end of the comment.

Also note that this blog is NOT associated with any public or political officials including Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer!