Thursday, August 2, 2007

Post Your Breaking News Here-Edition #1

For a variety of reasons I cannot post breaking news about the transit funding package as quickly or as completely as I would like. Two kind readers posted deliciously interesting news items in response to one of yesterday's posts. They suggest that the transit funding package is running aground.

If you have news about the status of the transit funding package (and don't forget the RTA "reform" package) please post that news in the comments to this post.

Let's work together to restore some of the transparency that was promised to us long ago.

NOTE: Please use this to post news. Try to save the commentary and debate for other posts. I may prune the comments accordingly so that this remains the spot for breaking news. Don't be offended if your comment disappears.


Anonymous said...

There are several rumors out there on the status of SB 572. I'm not sure which one (or more than one) is true.

#1 -- Cross is asking his caucus to hold off on supporting the bill as bargaining leverage to get a (probably mostly roads) capital bill. But time is running out for both a captital bill and 572. Given that lawmakers are still at odds over some parts of 572 (see below) and how to pay for a capital bill (casino off the table again?), both may be delayed. If the leaders make progress on a 12-month (I guess technically 11-month at this point) budget they may pass it soon, adjourn, and perhaps get together in a special session in September to consider both capital and transit operating funding. Of course that is after the CTA & Pace drop-dead date for cuts and fare increases.

#2 -- Widely reported are ongoing disagreements about governance. In particular, whether the RTA board seat currently held by the CTA chair should be taken away, and who it should be given to. In order to keep the D/R balance, it has been proposed to give it to a Cook County president appointee, but Cross of course isn't down with giving Stroger the time of day, let alone more power.

#3 -- There is alro reportedly trouble on the union/CTA pension front. There are two versions of this rumor. One is that Cross wants to completely strip the union of its right to collective barganing, and that Madigan and the union aren't down with that. The other is that Madigan wants to change the CTA pension board proposal from 1/2 CTA, 1/2 union, plus Bill Holland to some other form, possibly a board consisting of the "legislature at large". The union is naturally opposed to substantive changes to its "historic deal."

I sure hope these rediculous snag point or points get resolved. Otherwise it will be a pretty nasty fall for Chicagoans and a pretty nasty November 2008 for Chicago Democrats.

Who is Sick Transit Chicago? seems to be honing in on the Moderator's identity. At least one pressing issue for Chicagoland transit advocates appears close to resolution!

Moderator said...

Thanks for the news. Keep it coming.

Oh, and the detective work of those honing in on my identity would make Inspector Clouseau proud!

Anonymous said...

As requested: breaking news.....

The CTA and unions have resolved their issues, with the assistance of the Speaker. I work in the capitol building; so I can speak from my knowledge of this meeting. I also know enough not to provide the details of the conversation. But all is well with the CTA and the unions at this time.

As far as the appointment to the Cook County President. Suburban Cook contributes nearly $400 to the RTA operating budget currently; which is more nearly triple what the collar counties contribute to the system and nearly twice as much as the City of Chicago contributes.

Collar counties are making out tremendously under SB572; additional appointments on the Metra board, 1/4% sales tax for local projects without much limitations; and leaves suburban Cook subsidizing the system for the collar counties.

Suburban Cook has tremendous weight in the issue; if they only stand up and fight for the imbalances in the RTA system.

I think its time to look at the RTA legislative map and see where those votes are coming from. My assumption is that the HGOP vote is worthless since the majority fo the votes will come from the City of Chicago and Suburban Cook.

outerdriveexpress said...

Anon 747, Thanks for the inside track. It's good to know the union issue has been put to bed for now. So the holdup now is governance?

Anonymous said...

Are we there yet?

Maybe...sort if...we'll see...

Word is we could see a budget voted on by early next week. Apparently things are falling into place heading into the weekend.

What's in it?

Multiple sources tell me not a lot. A modest increase in education funding of somewhere around 600 million dollars. Aside from that, that's about it.

There won't be money in there for the governor's healthcare program or mass transit funding.

There also likely won't be a capital bill.

Word is, lawmakers would come back in September to work on a mass transit bailout and a capital bill.

I spoke to the CTA a little earlier. They won't specify a date for their fare hikes and service cuts until next week. The date is expected to be in mid-September. It appears, then, there would still be an opportunity to head-off the transit agencies "doomsday scenario."

This deal isn't quite "soup" - as they say.

We'll see if all this holds up over the weekend.

Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) did say, on the floor today, for all members to make sure they're in Springfield Sunday night because they may have a budget to work on.

It may only be the size of a pin prick, but maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

But keep in mind. Even if there is a budget deal - there's no guarantee the governor will sign it. That will open up a new chapter in this overtime saga.

(posted 2:30 P.M. 8/3)

servicecutsandfareincreases said...


(b) The Governor may convene the General Assembly or the
Senate alone in special session by a proclamation stating the
purpose of the session; and only business encompassed by such
purpose, together with any impeachments or confirmation of
appointments shall be transacted. Special sessions of the
General Assembly may also be convened by joint proclamation
of the presiding officers of both houses, issued as provided
by law.

Rodrigo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anon 7:47

The RTA can do a tax anticipation loan to avoid these service cuts. But have they mentioned this in recent weeks? NNNOOOO!!

Too many smoke and mirrors; mis-representing the truth of the true operating deficits, etc.

Just noticed that the last Moving Beyond Congestion report stated that the $400M in additional operating revenues was to maintain and expand the system.

I for one, would like to know how the additional dollars will expand the system; not just maintain it. Where will these investments be made?

I also would like to know how much the RTA spent on contract lobbyists, the money spent on the Moving Beyond Congestion 'plan' and how many consultants were involved in the process; along with a dollar figure spent.

I bet you it ends up being nearly the same amount of money it will take in cuts in services; which if you look at the numbers, looks like only $20 million in cuts; which can be avoided through other means while the legislature, and the Governor, comes together on this issue.

Don't get me wrong, I want the system to be fixed; but the RTA needs to be more truthful in their numbers they are presenting; and what possible temporary solutions can be utilized until SB572 passes, since the HGOP is 'dropping like flies' in support of the bill.

Anon 7:47

Anonymous said...

Bumped for an answer!

Anonymous said...

Why does the transit authority want to collect taxes for county road projects? Is that tax really needed? I don't see how that resolves the transit funding problem? Can somebody explain this?

August 2, 2007 6:53:00 PM CST

Anonymous said...

Collar county 1/4% tax.

From my understanding, it provides the opportunity for these collar counties to raise taxes for local road projects since they have had previous failed referendums to raise taxes for local projects.
Anon- bumped for an answer!

And it is my understanding, SB572 provides the legislation to raise the additional 1/4% in sales taxes; the Dept of Revenue will collect the taxes and funnel it back to the County level; not to the RTA.

However, I have been hearing that these counties will have to opt in to the additional tax.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Rumor I have from a good source, is that Repubs are demanding service contracting stipulations at CTA, like they have in some Western states.

Moderator said...

Anonymous 10:02 p.m.--

I assume that by "service contracting standards" you mean empowering the CTA to contract out for transit and transit-related (e.g., maintenance) services despite collective bargaining restrictions on such subcontracting.

Please confirm that this is a correct understanding and share whatever additional information you have. This could be a hugely beneficial--but highly controversial--provision for the CTA.

I wonder what the position of the RTA and CTA management is on the issue. On the one hand they want to salvage SB 572, and this subcontracting provision likely is a deal-breaker for the unions. On the other hand, by having the power to subcontract the CTA could expand its services in ways that aren't cost-effective today--e.g., vanpools and shuttle buses--and could keep down costs in other areas. The City of Chicago is no stranger to contracting out some public services.

Here's a link to an article from the Transportation Research Board entitled "Contracting for Bus and Demand-Responsive Transit Services: A Survey of U.S. Practice and Experience -- Special Report 258 (2001)" on such subcontracting:

Under Tom McCracken the RTA was a proponent of subcontracting, going so far as to hold a national seminar on the subject. Here's the link to an RTA bibliography on the subject:

This could be huge.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Daley better see that Metra get a lot of money from this bill. Hopefully, he'll require that they increase service levels in the City. More stops on the services they have today and more off-peak service. There are parts of Metra, all over the city, but particularly the Metra Electric, that could easily become more integrated into the urban fabric and really improve the quality of some neighborhoods.

Without that pressure, Metra will just keep fares artifically low on the far suburban zones and continue to sprawl, sprawl, sprawl themselves.