Saturday, October 20, 2007

Representative Hamos Transit Funding Status Report

Below is the latest from Representative Julie Hamos, the leading proponent of SB 572, the transit funding/RTA reform bill, on the transit funding situation. Note the following points she makes:
  • The capital funding bill that passed the State Senate (Illinois Works) divides transportation funding 10:1 in favor of roads. The previous capital bill (Illinois First) had a 2:1 ratio.
  • The RTA will not accept another short term loan or bailout. (Ed. note--We'll see about that.)
Here is Representative Hamos' update in full:

Transit Update, October 19, 2007

As you know, the clock is ticking toward the “doomsday” scenario on November 4th when the regional transit system will face the first round of service cuts, fare increases and layoffs. CTA, Pace and Metra will have run out of available funding by that date.

What action needs to be taken by the legislature?

In the Illinois House of Representatives: Senate Bill 572 continues to be the comprehensive solution, coupling long-term funding with accountability and reform. Senate Bill 572 was voted on in the House on September 4th but was defeated by 10 votes (the bill needs a 3/5ths vote, or 71 votes, but received only 61). It is currently on “postponed consideration” and can be called for another vote at any time.

Regretfully, only 5 Republicans supported SB 572, although this bill was crafted through an open, collaborative process by our bipartisan House Mass Transit Committee. Rather than voting for the transit bill on its own merits, the bill was “held hostage” by the House Republicans for another agenda: a public works construction program funded by a major new bond.

In the Illinois Senate: The same comprehensive bill as SB 572, with just a few minor changes, has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Cullerton as Senate Amendment #3 to HB 3667. The bill was not called for a vote on September 10 and 11 when the Senate convened in Springfield. Instead, they passed HB 2035, which includes new casinos and gaming revenues to fund a large capital bond program. It also includes a one-time $200 million loan to the regional transit system as a short-term solution to the transit funding crisis. HB 2035 is now pending in the House, but it does not seem likely that we would go along with a one-time loan to fund transit.

The Senate also passed SB 1110 incorporating a $24.6 billion capital budget to fund road programs, school and university construction, early childhood facilities, environmental facilities, local economic development projects, and more. Within SB 1110 is funding for “transit capital”, pegged at $425 million in new state funds – only 1/10th the amount included for roads. This is quite a contrast to the last capital bond program in 1999, when roads received twice as much as transit – not 10 times as much!

A recent public hearing of the House Mass Transit Committee on October 9th reached three conclusions:

(1) The capital bond program passed by the Illinois Senate in SB 1110 is totally inadequate to replace broken-down buses, or fix the CTA “slow zones”, or allow Illinois to compete for federal transit expansion dollars -- even if SB 572 is passed for transit operating budgets.
(2) There are no convenient or easy new funding sources for transit, although increased gasoline taxes or parking space taxes were debated (see testimony of Metropolitan Planning Council with interesting new possibilities). The other funding sources were sufficiently controversial that the modest regional sales tax and Chicago-based real estate transfer tax in SB 572 was validated as the only fair, balanced and regional resolution.
(3) The Regional Transportation Authority will not accept another one-time or short-term loan or bailout. The November 4th “doomsday” deadline is real.

Handouts from the October 9th public hearing are posted on my website:

In the next few weeks, it seems imperative for the four legislative leaders and the Governor to set aside their differences and agree on a plan to move Illinois forward. The plan ideally should include the comprehensive, long-term solution for transit embodied in SB 572 and HB 3667, and it should include a capital bond program that makes necessary investments in the state’s infrastructure, including transit.

The State of Illinois is in the process of tackling a number of significant, serious needs: education, health care, pensions, public works and transit. But only one issue has a looming deadline -- transit. We need civic and regional leaders, transit riders and community residents to actively work to persuade their own legislators, the four legislative leaders and the Governor to take action to save the mass transit system before November 4th.

Thank you for your interest and support.

Rep. Julie Hamos


Anonymous said...

yes, well, big surprise. Chicago is an absolute dumpity dump dump - strip malls and highways - and has the horrible misfortune of being a step-child appendage to a backwards state full of bumbling country idiots and vacuous boring suburbanites. if you really want to ride the train, move to NY... or Boston... or Berlin... or Paris... or Cologne... or Dehli... or Prague... or Moscow... or Montreal... or Tokyo or anywhere where the stench of American bullheadedness can't reach you.

HealthyCity said...

Anon 8:03 says, "Chicago is...a step-child appendage to a backwards state." Agreed, which makes the irony that one of the most, if not THE most, powerful leaders in the State is the Mayor of that City. Maybe he's not that powerful? Doubtful.

Mayor Daley is the ONLY one who can come in and fix this mess--particularly getting HIS transit system the resources it needs, and damn the suburbs with their roads and sprawl. If taxes are going to be raised in Chicago to fix transit in Chicago, why would he let that go through the RTA--cut them and the IDOTs right out this.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I looked over Rep. Hamos's site and the presentation links for the hearing. If the goal of the hearing was to find funding sources other than the sales tax, only the MPC presentation was somewhat responsive, and as discussed here, not completely accurate. The rest of the presentations were from those with a welfare agenda (the Pace link did not work, although we know what its view is).

After reading this, I fail to see what the end game is, especially since the House does not like the Senate's capital bill. Two weeks to go.

Anonymous said...

Healthy, as a suburbanite, I agree with your point, "particularly getting HIS transit system the resources it needs, and damn the suburbs with their roads and sprawl. If taxes are going to be raised in Chicago to fix transit in Chicago, why would he let that go through the RTA--cut them and the IDOTs right out this." However, while it is HIS transit system, he too is playing budget games by, for instance, putting the library in a different category, and saying the property tax increase is for the library, but thereby freeing up general fund revenue for other pet projects. No different than the state saying that the lottery is for education, but then offseting its proceeds from general revenues that otherwise would have gone to education. You should ask what he is doing with the money from the street furniture contract, Skyway lease, and TIFs, for instance, and why none of that appears to go to transit. Also, how he intends to use the proceeds of the proposed casino, and why the city (i.e. HE), unlike a private operator, should be exempt from paying the initial license fee and the threat of revocation if the casino is run corruptly.