*** 1:13 pm *** This has been rumored for days…
Governor Rod Blagojevich says he’s calling lawmakers back into session on January 2nd to work on finding a way to pay for the Chicago Transit Authority.
Blagojevich says he considered calling lawmakers back into session this week but decided to wait until after the holidays on the advice of some legislative leaders.
The advice was: “Nobody’s gonna show up and don’t mess with our holidays.”
*** 2:00 pm *** From the Tribbies…
“They need to come back and get to work and fund the CTA,” Blagojevich told reporters at a news conference. […]
“They need to be prepared to be there every to work,” Blagojevich said.
The political dynamic changes in Springfield come the new year, when once again a simple majority is all that’s required to pass legislation. That also means the influence of Republicans, who’ve had a seat at the table since the start of June, once again wanes. Democrats control the House, Senate and governor’s mansion.
He also had this to say, which I find very interesting…
Blagojevich also appeared to try to put some pressure back on Mayor Richard M. Daley, saying he’d discussed with Daley the idea of tapping into the city’s cash reserves from selling the Skyway as a way to stave off the Jan. 20 CTA cuts. [Emphasis added]
*** 2:07 pm *** Statement from Speaker Madigan’s spokesman…
“The governor has not informed the office of this decision. I am certain the members of the House will be ready to fully consider all the legislation he plans to introduce for this special session.”
*** 2:25 pm *** Letter the Governor sent to legislators…
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
December 20, 2007
Honorable members of the General Assembly:
As you know, despite the immediate and growing need to fund the Chicagoland mass transit system, Speaker Madigan decided to cancel session this week. This delay leaves millions of people waiting in uncertainty. I had hoped to receive legislation on my desk before the end of the calendar year. I considered calling a special session this week, but was informed by the legislative leaders that many of their members would be unavailable, and that it would be counterproductive to call them in right before their holiday break.
It has been ninety-two days since the Senate approved a capital plan with bipartisan support. That plan also provided for $200 million in interim relief for mass transit. In the three months since, the House has taken no action. Additionally, twice in the past four months I have been forced to bail out the Chicago Transit Authority to avoid crippling service cuts and fare hikes. In the absence of a permanent funding source, these bailouts have totaled almost $100 million.
Transit riders deserve better. The people of this state deserve better. As such, I am writing to notify you that I will call for a Special Session after the holiday break, beginning January 2, 2008, and to ask you to work quickly to pass a statewide infrastructure plan, so that there is also sufficient support for a long-term solution to mass transit funding. As I have said before, I support Representative Saviano’s plan, or a comparable plan, to provide mass transit funding by redirecting the sales tax on gasoline in the RTA region. This legislation received a near-majority of 57 votes on November 28, even though many members were absent or failed to vote on the measure.
With the RTA prepared to implement drastic layoffs, service cuts and fare increases on January 20 if no agreement is reached, our time is running out. You must focus on passing legislation in this short timeframe. There will be only 18 days to work before the transit doomsday, so you should be prepared to meet as often as needed during that period.
I am providing this notice now so that all members of the General Assembly can make arrangements to be present, and be prepared to vote. Let’s start the New Year on a great note by passing a long-term solution for mass transit. The citizens of Illinois are relying on us to get the job done.
*** 5:05 pm *** Email thoughts from Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff commenting on the line in the Tribune story…
The Governor didn’t say he’d discussed with Daley the idea of tapping into the city’s cash reserves from selling the Skyway as a way to stave off the Jan. 20 CTA cuts. He said downstate lawmakers have been grumbling about how Mayor Daley keeps insisting the state should bail out the CTA and not tie it to funding for downstate infrastructure projects; but meanwhile the city of Chicago - which has millions in the bank from the Skyway deal - hasn’t stepped up to help meet the CTA’s needs. We are pushing for passage of a long-term solution for mass transit, but the City-state funding disparity combined with the City’s reluctance to back a statewide capital plan, contributes to the challenge of winning support for transit funding in Springfield.