Monday, August 20, 2007
Who Will Wear The Suit If SB 572 Fails?
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.
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.