*** 2:13 pm *** Speaker Madigan is agreeing to the mass transit bailout proposed by House GOP Leader Cross and Gov. Blagojevich. However, both of those men have demanded that any transit deal be tied directly to a capital program. Madigan apparently hasn’t agreed to that yet.
In other words, Madigan is accepting their transit language as a standalone proposal and leaving it up to Cross and Blagojevich to decide whether they’ll support their own idea divorced from capital.
From a letter Madigan sent to state legislators today…
On Wednesday, November 28, in response to Governor Blagojevich’s special session proclamation, the General Assembly will convene for the purpose of considering legislation that provides “funding solutions for mass transit.”
Last week, the governor sent a letter to all representatives and senators indicating that he supports a plan advanced by Republican Leader Tom Cross, contained in House Bill 4161, which re-directs the state’s share of the sales tax on gasoline in Cook and the collar counties to the RTA.
This is not our preferred solution. As is well known, we favor Senate Bill 572 because it is structured to not be merely a bailout or a band-aid, but to provide the RTA and its service boards with a reasonably stable source of operating funds that would help them avoid the need to return in a few years to the capitol with hat in hand.
However, as an act of compromise, we are willing to accept the Blagojevich-Cross plan and ask that our fellow lawmakers support it, too. We face a genuine crisis and the time to act is now. It is irresponsible to continue to leave workers and employers wondering about travel to jobs, students concerned about making it to class and senior citizens worried about preserving their independence and ability to get to leisure activities, visit relatives, go shopping and see the doctor. This compromise will put an end to the piecemeal cash infusions, months of anxiety for transit riders and workers, and the incessant, and unfortunate, legislative drama that has surrounded this issue for the past several months.
In brief, the legislation we will advance, with some technical adjustments, is modeled on House Bill 4161. It does not include a general sales tax increase, nor would it allow the city of Chicago to increase its real estate transfer tax. The reform components of Senate Bill 572, which include substantial pension and benefit concessions from transit unions and other requirements to protect the best interests of taxpayers and transit riders, will remain in the bill. Allocations to Metra, Pace and the CTA are generally comparable to those in Senate Bill 572. For a more detailed explanation of the measure’s provisions, please see the accompanying fact sheet.
Just as we believe that others should not hold hostage transit riders in northeastern Illinois for the sake of accomplishing unrelated ends, we will not treat mass transit riders as pawns to be used as leverage to pass our desired solution. Instead, we choose to take Governor Blagojevich and Republican Leader Cross at their word and, for the sake of transit riders, will support the funding mechanism they favor.
We also share the governor’s expressed desire to see this bill passed before the holidays and fear that a failure to do so will jeopardize the broad and significant reforms it contains.
The heads of the service boards, RTA chairman, transit unions, and Mayor Daley have made it clear that we cannot afford any further delay. The damage to the livability and economic viability of the northeastern Illinois region would be severe, possibly catastrophic, if its mass transit system is allowed to deteriorate. The issue at hand is mass transit and now is the time to set aside alternative agendas and embrace this compromise.
Session begins at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday. We expect to proceed to partisan caucuses shortly thereafter and to call this measure for a floor vote sometime later in the day.
Click here for the full Madigan letter with attached info sheet.
*** 2:48 pm *** From Blagojevich spokesperson Rebecca Rausch…
This was a compromise solution we embraced several weeks ago. We made this compromise the center-piece of the special session we called for Wednesday. We hope the legislature can muster the votes necessary to pass it quickly.
Now, the question becomes whether Blagojevich releases his five House Democrats who voted against the earlier bill.
*** 3:13 pm *** From House Republican Leader Tom Cross’ spokesman…
We believe it is positive that [Madigan] agrees with us that now is not the time to burden citizens with higher taxes.
We hope he will continue to work on passing a capital bill to address the great needs of mass transit, road construction, school construction and higher education.
I’ll have more on what that actually means in tomorrow’s Capitol Fax.
*** 3:16 pm *** From the AP brief…
But it’s uncertain whether the proposal he now says he’ll support will go anywhere. That’s because a letter Madigan released this afternoon makes no mention of finding money to pay for a statewide construction program.
*** 3:20 pm *** Big trouble in the Senate.
Sen. John Sullivan (D-Rushville) just said that Downstate Senate Democrats still believe that transit and capital are “absolutely locked together,” and reiterated their earlier vow to vote against a transit bill until a capital deal is worked out. Sen. Sullivan said he and his colleagues were more than willing to work out a solution.
*** 3:23 pm *** Check out the governor’s official proclamation that called this week’s special session. Not one word was mentioned about a capital plan.
*** 3:56 pm *** Senate President Emil Jones’ office has “No comment” on the proposal.
*** 4:17 pm *** From the Senate Republicans…
It’s a mirage. Without a proposal to backfill GRF, this particular bill is not a plan.
*** 4:49 pm *** More from the Senate Republicans. Apparently, this e-mail bounced back at them from my account…
It appears the Speaker and Rep. Hamos have come to the realization that there is little support for a tax increase. Senate Republicans have been clear all along that asking the taxpayers to foot the bill is not the solution. We believe the transit systems must be invested in the solution — with greater efficiences, budget cuts and reforms.