Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Last Minute-itis

Representative Julie Hamos' amended RTA reform bill has evolved from concept to legislation. It is now Amendment No. 1 to Senate Bill 572. This should be the bill to watch. In a blast email Representative Hamos states that "We are in the process of drafting amendments that will address funding and CTA pension reform." The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn in 48 hours. Plenty of time!

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Amendment No. 1 addresses RTA oversight issues. For reasons set out here, here and here, the bill is disappointingly modest in its scope. Isn't it a bit naive to think that absent some major change in personnel--from the board level down--the RTA will be just as unwilling or unable to exercise these new powers as it was to exercise its existing powers over the previous 25 years?

It appears that Amendment No. 1 leaves intact some of the key provisions of the RTA Act that have rankled politicians and the public for years. These include:

-- The division of the RTA into City of Chicago, suburban Cook County and the collar county zones for purpose of allocating RTA, Pace and Metra service board memberships and sales tax revenue.

-- The large difference between the Cook County (1%) and collar county (0.25%) RTA sales tax rate.

-- The allocation of RTA board seats based upon population, including the requirement that the board seats be reallocated every 10 years, something the General Assembly has failed to do despite a statutory requirement that it be done by July of 2003.

-- The allocation of Metra board seats based on morning boardings, which is obviously skewed against representation from the City of Chicago.

-- The statutory allocation of sales tax revenue among the three service boards, which leaves the CTA chronically dependent on RTA discretionary funds and which results in aberrations such as Metra getting zero RTA sales tax dollars from the City of Chicago despite the important service Metra provides in the City.

Maybe upcoming amendments will deal with some of these issues.

1 comment:

jackonthebus said...

Following up your link, there is a Second House Amendment to SB0572, which incorporates the RTA's position on taxes (raising the sales tax in Cook by .25% and the collar counties by .50% and giving the right to impose the real estate transfer tax in Chicago), and keeps the distribution of revenues the same for presumably the portion of the tax collections corresponding to the old tax rates (references to 85% of 80% of certain taxes, for instance). If anyone can really figure out the new funding formula, please let us know.