In today's Sun-Times we got a glimpse at some of those politics. (Crain's article here.) At a press conference designed to promote his slate of aldermanic candidates for the upcoming runoff election the Mayor "warned of more painful CTA service cuts unless lawmakers provide both capital and operating assistance and relax rules governing pensions, health care and private contracting."
Political hurdle #1: The CTA apparently cannot contract out work being performed by its heavily unionized workforce. Doing so presumably would violate collective bargaining agreements and further alienate organized labor from the Mayor. Yet, the potential cost savings from contracting out some of the CTA work likely are significant. The Mayor cautiously opened the door for some legislative (or negotiated) way for the CTA to contract out some of its work:
But Daley said there's money to be saved by privatizing "some of the internal stuff."
Last legislative session, Speaker Madigan pushed through a requirement that the CTA put sufficient money into the pension fund so that it reach a 90 percent funding level in 2058, fifty-one years from now. To get there, the CTA claims it needs $200 million more each year, which just illustrates the poor current condition of its pension fund.
In today's press conference the Mayor claimed this requirement was "unbelievable" and urged that it be rolled back:
In light of that demand, rules changes governing CTA pensions are not in the cards, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said today.
"That's how they got themselves into the problem that exists today--by diverting pensions contributions to use them for operating" expenses, Brown said.
Political hurdle #3: As if the CTA versus unions and Mayor versus Speaker is not enough, neither the Governor nor the General Assembly appear all that interested in the kind of comprehensive and expensive public transit fix being touted by the RTA and its allies. As the spokesperson for the Speaker explained:
It reminds me of a saying from one of Werner Hezog's films (?) --"Every man for himself and God against all."