Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Re-Entry: Julie Hamos Update

Still out of town but now in a place with reliable internet and an inspiring transit system. Will start substantive posting soon.

Here is the latest update from Representative Julie Hamos. Note the promise of more amendments to her "transit reform" bill:

Update on Comprehensive Transit Legislation

As the spring legislative session winds down, you will notice from media accounts that the issue of transit is now on the radar of the Governor, legislative leaders and legislators. This is an update on where we stand, as of today.

Last Friday, both Metra and Pace announced fare hikes and service cuts if no new revenues are forthcoming. This is on top of previous announcements of drastic fare increases and service cuts for CTA riders. All three agencies also would be forced to use capital dollars that are set aside for maintenance, just to plug their operating budgets. The transit agencies aren't bluffing, and the problem won't go away.

The Governor has announced that he would like to see $100 million added to the fiscal year 2008 budget for the CTA. This is a problem for four reasons: (1) this issue isn't just about the CTA, but the entire regional transit system; (2) it requires a long-term solution, not just a one-year bailout, because the revenue stream that was adopted 24 years ago is simply not keeping pace with transit expenses; (3) the CTA deficit will double (or worse) by next fiscal year when it will need to add significantly to pensions and retiree healthcare, especially if there are no reforms; and (4) there's no reason now, after 24 years, to shift responsibility for transit from regional taxes to the state budget – which already has its own problems.

On May 31, the House Mass Transit Committee adopted House Amendments #1 and #2 to Senate Bill 572. Amendment #1 deals with comprehensive RTA reforms related to regional planning and coordination, fiscal oversight and accountability. Amendment #2 is the funding package that proposes an expanded regional sales tax of 0.25 percent as well as a small increase in the Chicago real estate transfer tax. In addition, an 0.25 percent sales tax would be added in the collar counties for their own local transportation projects. The sales tax increase would mean an extra 25 cents on each $100 purchase. The real estate transfer tax would mean an extra 1/10 th of 1 percent of the sales price of the property, paid by the seller -- often only once or twice in a lifetime.

We are currently negotiating other amendments to complete the comprehensive transit legislation. These include reforms of CTA pension and retiree healthcare benefits; creation of a Suburban Community Mobility Fund for flexible paratransit services for seniors and the disabled in the suburbs; possible changes in governance; possible funding for downstate transit; and responses to other issues being raised. We hope to add these amendments to the bill within the next two weeks. For an immediate effective date, the bill will require 3/5 ths vote in both the House and Senate – in other words, bipartisan support from the region and downstate.

We hope the Governor will support the bill by the time it arrives on his desk. After all, there is no Plan B. We wish there was a fallback position or a halfway measure, but actually the funding problem will be magnified by next year and every other year. This legislation presents the only long-term regional solution, including a steady stream of revenues, accountability and reforms, to make the needed investments in a quality transit system for the next decade. Why would we vote for anything less?

Stay in touch through my website at www.juliehamos.org and contact your legislators! You can make a difference.


Rep. Julie Hamos
Chair, House Mass Transit Committee

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"We are currently negotiating other amendments to complete the comprehensive transit legislation."

Really? Where's the transparency? "Who" is "We"? And what about "Us"?

What is the meaning of "Complete the Legislation"? Last minute shoehorning eh Julie? Time to stand and deliver folks.

jackonthebus said...

I would agree with the above. Also, according to the Sun-Times, there is some political skulduggery afoot, with Emil Jones carrying the Stogers' water on trying to get (now Todd) appointment powers with regard to the RTA, when his father failed trying to get the same power in a lawsuit. I don't see the Strogers asking for the right to appoint city members of the RTA. Thus, while the reforms are necessary, the process is not transparent, and we don't know whether they are being diluted (as we did find out in the case of section 2.12b).

jackonthebus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hey Jack--

You're right but there are lots of cousins---not to mention friends of Larry et. al.