* The Tribune editorial board makes a good point today…
Just when it looks like lawmakers have mustered up the courage to end the gratuitous free-rides-for-seniors program, Gov. Pat Quinn has thrown a monkey wrench into the works.
With a bill meant to ease the transit systems’ financial woes moving in the General Assembly, Quinn called Thursday for a moratorium on fare hikes in return for its passage. Besides rescinding ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s gratuitous senior freebie program, the bill would allow the Regional Transportation Authority to borrow up to $400 million to cover operating costs for the area’s bus and rail systems.
You read that right: The governor is OK with letting the RTA borrow up to $400 million for day-to-day expenses, but he wants no part of any plan to balance the budget by requiring people to pay a fair share of their rides.
Wait’ll they hear the rest of the story. Oof.
The proposed fare hikes are steep - $3 L rides, up from $2.25, for instance. But riders ought to help shoulder the burden. So should Mayor Daley, for that matter, and everyone else, as long as we’re passing along responsibilities.
Quinn’s idea for a two-year fare freeze is bad public policy because it’s an unfunded mandate. We’ll give you some borrowing authority to get you through this mess, but we won’t fix the now-broken “fix” that we did last year and, oh, you can’t raise fares for two years even if revenues crash even more.
The danger here is that Quinn is setting the stage for far deeper service and job cuts. Mass transit is a hugely valuable asset and Quinn is willing to allow it to further deteriorate because he doesn’t want to wear the jacket for a fare hike.
Almost nobody ever demands that expressways and city streets always operate in the black. That’s just a silly notion to most people. Yet, public transportation constantly has to face down a stupid double standard. They’re supposed to make money, or at least come close to breaking even. And when they don’t, they get chopped. Foolish.
Either provide a real funding solution or allow mass transit to at least cover some of their losses themselves. This faux populism is plain goofy. A real populist would make sure that people could take the bus and train to work.
* Other Statehouse news…
* Quote of the Day: “Stick it to granny and poor little uncle Willy. I refuse to screw the senior citizens of the state of Illinois.”
* Bill to cut seniors’ free transit rides stalls
* Free bus rides for all seniors could end
* Lawmakers reconsider free rides for seniors
* Stroger tax could be easier to undo
* Change in Cook County Veto Rules Sent to Governor
* Senate moves to lower threshold for Stroger override
* Illinois legislature: Tax-minded lawmakers vote to undercut Cook County chief’s veto power
* New `STAR bonds’ plan would target entertainment, pay neighbors
* House OKs tougher cemetery oversight
* Governor gets bill to require prison time for gang members with guns
* Senate gives Quinn green light to pick leaders for key state agencies