- 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.)
Transit Update, October 19, 2007
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