Monday, August 20, 2007

Who Will Wear The Suit If SB 572 Fails?

The Bombast

In today's Capitol Fax Blog, Rich Miller excoriates Metra board members and Metra's Executive Director, Phil Pagano, for venting at a recent board meeting at the lack of progress in Springfield on the the SB 572 transit funding package. (Coverage of that board meeting here, here and here.)

This excerpt from the Daily Herald gives you a sense of that meeting:

The frustration of Metra officials, who have been waiting for action on the measure by lawmakers for months, spilled out at the board meeting Friday in an hourlong, round-robin rant.

Metra Director Phil Pagano, visibly angered at times, lamented the attention lavished on the CTA over its threatened fare hikes and service cuts while also blasting lawmakers who believe Metra riders can afford drastic fare hikes.

“I’m sick and tired - in blunt language - of people thinking our ridership is lily white making $250,000 a year,” he said at the public meeting. “We provide a very wide range of service for a wide range of people.”

On the CTA, he snapped, “I’m getting really tired of the CTA and their service cuts. This isn’t a one-agency issue.”

On the heels of the Metra board meeting a McHenry County group entitled the McHenry County Better Roads Coalition held a spirited rally in Algonquin. (Here, here and here.) The rally featured plenty of speeches and placards attacking the Governor for failing to fund McHenry County road improvements. Some of the loudest voices at the rally belonged to Republican public officials, which is rather ironic since it has been Illinois Republicans who have repeatedly torpedoed transportation capital bills, including a major capital construction bill less than two weeks ago.

Could this highly publicizing fingerpointing by Metra and McHenry County bigwigs be the start of a concerted effort by these folks and their allies to put the jacket of public transit fare increases and service cuts and increasing highway congestion on the Governor and the Democratic leaders in the General Assembly if SB 572 fails to pass? Are these folks telegraphing their belief that SB 572 is unlikely to pass and that it is time to secure a good position for when the blame game begins?

Rich Miller points the finger back at Metra and its suburban Republican political base:

Whining about the lack of publicity or the inattention by Springfield is not Metra’s answer. Their problem is that too many Republicans, particularly in the House, bought into an “easy fix” for transit that was based on gaming expansion. That package is now on life support. It’s up to Metra, PACE and the RTA to convince those recalcitrant suburban legislators - most of them Republicans - to get back on board the negotiated agreement for a sales tax hike which fell apart when the easy gaming money was dangled in front of them.

Let's look at the data we have to see if he is on the mark.

The Numbers

By my rough calculations there are 78 State representatives who have districts that include a significant part of the six-county RTA region. Twenty-eight are Republican and 50 are Democrats.

Four of the 28 Republicans (14%) have signed on as sponsors of SB 572. The four Republican sponsors are as follows:

Suzanne Bassi (54th District--Northwest Cook County--District office in Palatine)
Elizabeth Coulson (17th District--Northern Cook County--District office in Glenview)
Mike Fortner (95th District--Western DuPage County and a bit of Kane County--District office in West Chicago)
Sid Mathias (53d District--Northwest Cook County and smidgen of Lake County--District office in Arlington Heights)

Note that with the exception of Representative Fortner not a single Republican representative from the collar counties (Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Will) has signed on as a sponsor of SB 572.

Nineteen of the 50 Democrats (48%) have signed on as sponsors. One can only speculate why more have not signed on as sponsors. In all, only 23 of the 78 representatives from this region (28%) are listed as SB 572 sponsors.

In the Senate, there are 28 Democrats and 7 Republicans from the six-county RTA region. None of the Republican senators have signed on as a sponsor of SB 572. Just four of the Democrats (14%) have signed on as sponsors. This means that just four of 35 senators in the region (11%) are sponsors of SB 572.

Bill sponsorship may mean little or nothing for most bills. In a major bill like SB 572, however, the level of sponsorship may be a more accurate indication of the support for the bill in the legislature. After all, elected officials in this region likely have heard plenty from their constituents, transit interest groups, and editorial boards concerning the merits of SB 572. It pains one to recall that the Moving Beyond Congestion effort has been in high gear for the past year or so. The House Mass Transit Committee has spent a significant amount of time on transit funding/governance issues over the past several years. If an elected official strongly supported SB 572, or at least wanted the repeated visits from lobbyists on the issue to cease, then presumably they would have jumped on the sponsorship bandwagon long ago.

If and when it comes time to "wear the jacket" for the failure of SB 572, it looks like there had better be plenty of cloth, both red and blue, to make all the appropriate garments.


Anonymous said...

First of all, I loved your political analysis of SB572.

Please keep in mind, that the GOP has pulled their support from this bill, rather hastily (within a day or two), once the the notion of gaming came into play. As Rich Miller points out, 'it is on life support"

Rep. Hamos should just call the bill. In the end, how can the GOP explain their 'no' vote to the suburbanites?


Anonymous said...

There is plenty of blame to go around for everyone in state government. Hell, yesterday Channel 7 reported that even after having the press conference a week ago with Jones, the Gov has still not acted on the budget. Also, don't forget that the Democrats could have settled everything but capital funding themselves before May 30, and the state Senate Democrats still can.

I see the Metra comments just as realism, just like Pace's actions. According to the Tribune, Pace cuts are starting with Route 835, and "Even if legislators approve an 11th-hour funding measure, the 23 [poorly performing] Pace routes will not be restored, Pace spokeswoman Judi Kulm said ...." Hence, Pace is using the process to clean house, something it should have done two years ago with 835: "Recently, Route 835's eight daily express runs have been carrying only about 50 riders per day [i.e. about 6 or 7 a bus, with an empty deadhead], down from about 68 in 2006. Route 835 essentially duplicates service on Metra's SouthWest Line, which doubled its commuter rail service last year." Apparently the process is like waiving Jose Contrerras: once you pass waivers (go through hearings, in Pace's case), management can do anything. (Also, so much for the commentator a couple of months ago who wanted to know what was wrong about empty buses.)

One other thing I noted is that the CTA (and especially Ask Carole) has never asked for support for SB572, just support for funding.

Also, unless things are really confused in Springfield, this reporter has confused gambling to fund the capital bill with the sales tax in SB572, just as other reporters have gone along with the Gov's complaint that the $100 million for the CTA was not in the budget, even though later reports do mention SB572. Other reports, including by Julie Hamos here, were that the GOP tied support of SB572 to getting a capital bill. You can't believe anyone.

For those who were asking if the Final Action deadline meant anything, it has been extended 2 more times. With the service boards implementing their plans and the RTA apparently out of the picture, MsM is correct that she may as well call the bill. Even though the current version is a bloated mess.

Anonymous said...

I know school construction isn't part of your beat, but if you want to see how the blame game works in this state, and how the Gov. puts people into "Catch-22" situations, check out this Tribune article. Want to bet that if SB572 ever passed, he would wait 60 days to veto it, and then blame the legislature?

Anonymous said...

Moderator, Your analysis is incorrect. Many more reps have filed the paperwork to be sponsors of the bill, but it has not been processed. For example, John Fritchey recently complained on his blog that (in comments) that his sponsorship has not yet shown up.

In general, however, I think most of the rank-and-file are waiting to see what the leaders identify as "the" transit funding solution. If Madigan brings SB 572 to a vote, that will signal to them that 572 is "the" solution, and they will vote for it (even if they didn't sign on as sponsors). And the current sponsors? They are among the few independant thinkers in Springfield.

Anonymous said...

UPDATE: John Fritchey just showed up as a sponsor about two weeks after filing the paperwork.

Anonymous said...

19/50 = 38%

Anonymous said...


Does anyone know if Hamos can call the bill on her own? Or can only Madigan do it?

Since SB 572 is a House-amended senate bill, does Jones have the option of not calling it, or must it be called if it passes the House?

No speculation, only experts please.

Anonymous said...

From my understanding, Hamos can the call the bill when she is ready.

And it is my understanding, that the if SB572 passes out of the House,it must go back to the Senate for a vote; than back to the House for concurrence if there are any changes in the Senate.



The thought of the Governor waiting 60 days to veto the bill has crossed my mind. I've tried to have a policy discussion with one of the Gov's people to hear their suggestions for an alternative funding sources a few months ago and again a few weeks ago; and it was fruitless.

Anonymous said...


But can Jones just not call the bill if he so desires, once it goes to Senate?

Anonymous said...

If he can, at that point it would die. (Jones said that he would not call up budget vetoes of pork.) But what would Jones gain by doing that? In any event, the Senate's concurrence would be necessary to pass the bill.

Maybe a parliamentarian can also explain the Senate's rules in this regard, and what the House accomplished by stripping the original SB572 (which had nothing to do with transit, but with drivers' licenses) and replacing it with a version of HB1841, instead of just sticking with and further amending HB1841.

Anonymous said...

There is some issue with a House Bill going over to the Senate, in overtime session. From my understanding, it was easier to put it on a SB, not a HB.

This also happened with the CMAP bill; it was originally HB1134; but the sponsors went with SB1201 for passage due to deadline restrictions.

Yes, Jones can call the bill once it passes out of the House.


Anonymous said...

But the question was can he not call the bill.

Working on law books, I know that the "not" often is frequently omitted.