Friday, December 7, 2007

Representative Hamos: Coal In Her Stocking This Year?

Representative Julie Hamos has yoked her star to reforming and better funding public transit in northeastern Illinois. She led the House Mass Transit Committee through a series of hearings on transit issues that stretched over several years. She guided SB 572 through the twists and turns of the legislative process. When it became clear that SB 572 didn't have the votes, she took a deep breath announced her support of a rival bill, but it too failed to pass. As indicated by her latest communication to the public on transit issues, reprinted below, she now is advocating pushing for completion of a comprehensive state capital bill in order to secure passage of some sort of transit reform/funding package.

Do we think Representative Hamos is going to get her wish of a transit bill before 2007 ends or is she getting a lump of coal in her stocking this holiday season?

* * *

DECEMBER TRANSIT UPDATE

The General Assembly and Governor still have not resolved the upcoming transit funding crisis, and the clock is again ticking toward a doomsday scenario that is likely to be worse in 2008 than this year.

On November 28, we were called into special session by the Governor to consider transit funding. During the previous week both Republican Leader Cross and Governor Blagojevich had endorsed a different funding mechanism for transit than the funding that had been contained in my comprehensive bill, SB 572.

The transit funding in the Cross-Blagojevich plan was incorporated in House Amendment #2 to SB 307, and called for a vote. This funding would be a diversion of the gasoline sales tax collected in our region – about $385 million (combined with ADA paratransit funding from the state for a $440 million total). In addition, downstate transit would receive a higher reimbursement rate.

In this approach the combined $440 million for regional transit would be paid directly from the state budget. That's because gasoline sales taxes currently are deposited into the state treasury and used for state needs. Legislators expressed concern that there was no replacement for the lost revenues, and defeated the bill by a vote of 57-53-4 (71 votes were needed). Although Republican Leader Cross had proposed the plan, only 3 Republicans voted for it!

I sponsored House Amendment #2 to SB 307 as an act of compromise. It had not been my idea to shift responsibility for regional transit to the state budget, but I agreed to a new funding source in order to put an end to the months of anxiety the legislative infighting had placed on transit riders and workers. In fact, SB 572 that I have sponsored all spring, summer and fall would be a regional solution to a regional need -- with a modest increase in the regional sales tax along with a Chicago-based real estate transfer tax. This would produce $530 million of new revenues for transit operations, as well as to pay for the CTA pension reform plan.

Here's the real story. Throughout the excruciating debate on the House floor it became quite clear that the real issue is not with the funding. The House Republicans continue to hold transit hostage to another agenda: a capital infrastructure program that would also fund roads, bridges and school construction throughout the state. The leaders are discussing an expansion in casinos to pay for that. Since transit also needs capital dollars for new buses, rail and station improvements, I support a capital bill – although transit funding is a real emergency and should be resolved immediately.

Once again the clock truly is ticking toward doomsday. The RTA must adopt an austere budget on December 14th – over $400 million in budget deficits will have to be made up with fare hikes and massive service reductions. The one-time loan by the Governor last September has reduced next year's revenues even further. The pension and retiree healthcare reforms negotiated with the unions expire on December 31st. Over 2,000 CTA workers have been given layoff notices, just before the holidays.

I've come to the conclusion that the leaders and the Governor should be pressed to finalize details on the capital bill. Once that happens, our version of a comprehensive transit bill will be passed. Please write or call the legislative leaders and the Governor to tell them that we must take action now!

. . .

Best,

Julie Hamos State Representative,
18th District

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lump of coal (figuratively, for religious reasons in her case). For several reasons:
1. The gas sales tax transfer is being characterized as a raid on the state treasury and yesterday Dan Hines said that Medicaid money is already running out (while the Governor wants to divert more money into his insure the kiddies plan). Apparently economic activity in this state can't support the government's demands.
2. The legislative leaders promised a solution, including finishing the capital bill, within 7 to 10 days of November 1. They are already a month late on that promise, and all the temporary bailouts do is enable them to stall more.
3. "I've come to the conclusion that the leaders and the Governor should be pressed to finalize details on the capital bill. Once that happens, our version of a comprehensive transit bill will be passed. Please write or call the legislative leaders and the Governor to tell them that we must take action now!" That's what we need, another ineffective "contact your legislator" campaign. We've had a couple of years of the click on savechicagolandtransit.com, to which the CTA has directed traffic, to little avail. We had the RTA Moving Beyond Congestion campaign, but all it has accomplished is enriching consultants. Pace has its send a message site. Now we are supposed to start writing again. And to whom? The governor and legislative leaders have staked out their positions. Will Chicagoans writing to downstate legislators to change their minds? Or are the Chicago legislators who want transit the ones holding up the capital and casino bills? Since the Governor and legislature have shown that they are not responsive to the people (and most of the legislators already know that they will be running unopposed in the Feb. 2008 primary), so what?
4. Since it has been indicated that the downstaters can be cut out if a bill passes in the 2008 regular session (since only a simple majority would be needed to pass a bill), that may be the strategy, and in any event, it may take an actual doomsday to get some action. Despite #1, the Gov. probably still has a secret stash to prolong the process.

Anonymous said...

Julie Hamos for Governor! who wants to start the 10million dollar fund-raising campaign for real illinois governmental reform??!!!

Anonymous said...

10:47, why? She hasn't shepherded a bill through the House. The reform and governance portions of the bills become more diluted in an effort to get votes, none of which has become successful. Also, there is the game of stripping bills. First we had HB1841, and then SB572 was stripped, and now the reference is to SB307. The latter originally dealt with "RENTAL VEHICLE DAMAGE WAIVERS." Is this an attempt to keep voters from tracking the progress of one bill, so that something else can be sneaked into the next?

Anonymous said...

I also note that when you click on the link for House Amendment No. 2, the message is "No full-text versions have been released for 09517SB0307/". Real transparent.

edna welthorpe said...

Hamos gets one small candy cane for her good intentions, but pinning transit funding hopes on increasing the sales tax was bound to be a tough sell.

Of course, since none of the three Chicago democrats who run the state can agree that there's actually a problem that needs solving, it wouldn't matter if Rep. Hamos had engraved the perfect solution on golden tablets while being guided by divine authority.

Moderator said...

The text of Representative Hamos' Amendment No. 2 to SB 307 can be found at:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation
/95/SB/PDF/09500SB0307ham002.pdf

Here's the link to the vote tally from the November 28, 2007 vote:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation
/votehistory/95/house/09500SB0307
_11282007_002000T.pdf

Anonymous said...

Madigan now says that he has a casino bill so the logjam should be over. We'll have to see if the latter is a fact. See, for instance, this from abc7chicago.com.

Anonymous said...

10:52, the obscure bill numbers and titles are due to even more obscure parliamentary maneuvers of the sort that Michael Madigan used to tell as bedtime stories to baby Lisa.

Anonymous said...

Also, we now apparently have the question whether to write to support Lou Lang's or Ricky Hendon's casino bill, the Senate Bill (probably under a HB number) that allocates only 10% of the capital budget to transit, or something else that Mayor Daley wants. I'm so confused. However, some state senator says that the drop dead date is Dec. 19, 2007.

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