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House passes “no free rides for all” bill - And MJM talks to the press

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010

* The House has overhwelmingly passed a bill to get rid of free rides for all seniors, regardless of income. 83 members voted “Yes.” If the bill becomes law (not guaranteed yet), seniors enrolled in the Circuit Breaker program would still be able to ride free.

* Also today, House Speaker Michael Madigan talked to reporters about his constitutional amendment, whether he advised the governor to introduce a budget without a tax hike, the Republican opposition, the people who’ve contacted him about the lt. governor opening and whether Rep. Art Turner has a better chance now that Duckworth has dropped out.

Have a look


The Madigan availability continues. MJM talks about whether a Downstater would help the ticket, the budget and the Republicans, Bill Brady, whether a tax hike is more likely after the November election, his differences with Gov. Quinn over abolishing the lt. governor’s office, the weak support for the Senate’s tax plan in the House, how the state Democratic Central Committee will pick the Cohen replacement (one day for hearings and one day for votes).

Watch it


* Other legislative stuff…

* Southwest Side lawmaker to monitor Iraq elections : Rep. Susana Mendoza, 37, is part of a mission in conjunction with the National Foundation for Women Legislators and the U.S. Department of State to travel to Baghdad.

* Voluntary compliance with insurance reforms urged

* Consumers warm up to Illinois’ appliance-rebate program

* Illinois seeks to block new Michigan move in Asian carp battle

- Posted by Rich Miller        

50 Comments
  1. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:06 pm:

    HB4654 should have happened last year, not sure why Quinn and others (e.g., black GA members such as Ricky Hendon) killed it. Oh yeah, now I remeber, they did so for political posturing reasons. whatever.


  2. - RobRoy - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:21 pm:

    So what’s up with MM? Can’t recall so many smiles and kidding around in pressers. Prozac?


  3. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:23 pm:

    Hopefully the IL GOP house members will think strategically/smartly (and later on the IL GOP Senate members) and sign on to the bill to eliminate the lt. guv office. On this issue don’t be the party of “no,” spin this as working in a bi-partisan fashion to help eliminate wasteful spending in state government, assuming that they remain united against quinn’s tax increase (which they should). But, if for no other reason the IL GOP members in the house and senate need to support madigan on this they need only think of Jason Plummer, and the problem he causes their side with repsect to the governor’s race.


  4. - The Doc - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:24 pm:

    Assuming it makes it to Quinn’s desk, what could’ve been a feather in his cap and fodder for his “share the pain” good government mantra instead becomes another fire that requires extinguishing.

    If he signs it, he’ll need to explain why he flip-flopped after having vocally opposed the identical principle just a few short months ago. He’ll also irk the likes of Hendon et al.

    If he refuses to sign it, he gets tarred as slovenly pandering to seniors and ignoring the will of the House majority, risks a veto override, and appears (yet again) as weak and ineffectual, devoid of budget solutions other than an income tax increase.

    Signing the bill seems much more logical, on balance, when viewed through the prism of campaigning to win a full term (never mind the policy, which is also sound).


  5. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:26 pm:

    RobRoy, he’s almost always like that, particularly early in the session.


  6. - Fed up - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:28 pm:

    Doc
    Quinn has flip flopped on just about everything since he fell into the job. He is a nice rabel rouser but couldnt manage a Dairy Queen much less a state.


  7. - RobRoy - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:29 pm:

    Ah yes….early in the session being the key.


  8. - 3rd Party - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:33 pm:

    reading between the lines.. sounds like Turner is the Lt. Gov pick, no?


  9. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:44 pm:

    “reading between the lines.. sounds like Turner is the Lt. Gov pick, no?”

    No


  10. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:45 pm:

    I find it funny that they think they are saving money by limiting free rides for seniors to…

    the seniors who actually use public transportation.


  11. - This Little Piggie - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:45 pm:

    …no free rides for seniors..

    Wait, so we are going to start taxing pensions?

    Cool!


  12. - Bill - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:59 pm:

    So if there are 42 pro increase Dem votes then Maddie only needs 18 Repubs to vote for it. C’mon Repubs, bet off the sideline.


  13. - Fed up - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:12 pm:

    no chance of 18 Gop votes.


  14. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:39 pm:

    Madigan is always a great interview.

    Q: “What do you say to the social service agencies who are seeing their budgets cut, who are laying off employees?”

    M: “Talk to the non-participating drop-outs…if you can findthem.”

    @Bill

    My guess is you only need to find 8 or at most 9 Republican yes votes. For every vote that the GOP adds, a Democrat like Lyons or Fritchey will come back to the reservation.

    The trickier question is whether Cullerton and Madigan will insist that Radogno and Cross be among the Yes votes.

    Politically, I think the only way for both parties to assure that this issue isn’t used against them in the Fall is for all four leaders to be Yes votes.

    Moreover, I think its tough for Cross to maintain any credibility among his colleagues if he goes to them and says “I need eight volunteers”, but he’s not willing to be among them. Its a pretty good rule in politics that you don’t ask someone to do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself.


  15. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:46 pm:

    George,

    I disgree with you. As it stands, and as discussed in the latter part of last year, there are too many seniors who don’t need the free ride who are taking the free ride because it is, well, um, free. Pat Quinn’s mother who is in her early 90s “loaned” her son’s primary campaign $100,000 days before the feb 2nd race. If she could do that then she probably doesn’t need to be riding RTA systems for free.
    But, there are a lot of elderly people who would qualify for free rides under a means test approach who have not, are not and will not take advantage of free rides. Too many are sickly or prefer to use personal transportation or have family to provide for their transportation needs instead.


  16. - Taxpayer - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:49 pm:

    All seniors should be treated the same, be it free ride or no free ride, or half price ride. Free rides continuing by a “means test” just turns it into a welfare program. Seniors unable to qualify will pay taxes to fund the ones who do. I don’t mind paying a little higher fare for seniors to ride free as long as ALL seniors ride free.


  17. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:53 pm:

    Will County woman - you have no numbers to back up your argument that there is a significant number of seniors who make too much to qualify for Circuit Breaker but are riding transit for free.

    But if you look at median incomes and populations in the counties where transit is prevalent, it is fairly obvious that the vast majority of senior transit riders are low-income.

    This is all symbolic. Once you add in the new administrative costs of administering a means test, it will probably break even.

    “As discussed in the latter part of last year,” there was a lot of spin and B.S., but no numbers proving that there were these large quantities of well-off seniors causing the bankruptcy of the system.

    To dismiss this as an already settled argument is arrogant.


  18. - Fed up - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 2:59 pm:

    free rides just another handout that we can’t afford. The same Pols that wont kill this boondogle will complain about the CTA, RTA coming to Springfield begging for more money


  19. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:20 pm:

    –So what’s up with MM? Can’t recall so many smiles and kidding around in pressers. Prozac?–

    “I actually know how this is going to play out, and you don’t.”


  20. - reformer - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:27 pm:

    Almost all Republicans voted to means test the senior rides. I wonder how many would apply the same principle of limiting benefits to the needy to, say, the income tax exemption for pensions & Social Security? I’ll bet there would be a lot less enthusiasm to limit the tax exemption to those on circuit breaker..


  21. - james - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:27 pm:

    I’m glad the legislature acted. I agree this program is one of many good liberal notions that nonetheless are not essential and need to be cut in today’s environment. Its creation was, in my opinion, an abuse of Blago’s executive authority.
    However, once created, there is a political price to pay for anyone who rescinds such an entitlement. I can understand why PQ was unwilling to pay that price last year while campaigning for the nomination. By passing this bill, the legislature does the right thing while providing PQ with some political cover for a decision that will be unpopular with many senior voters.


  22. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:31 pm:

    “By passing this bill, the legislature does the right thing while providing PQ with some political cover for a decision that will be unpopular with many senior voters.”

    Actually James, I think it doesn’t really provide him cover, but instead further highlights his weaknesses on two key front: leadership and comptence.


  23. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:47 pm:

    WCW, please help us understand your posts here on Capitol Fax: did the Governor run over your cat or something?

    In addition to the sun rising in the east, we can count on a few things here:

    The morning shorts will be comprehensive;
    The QOTD will be interesting (usually);
    Shore will hijack any post with a pro-Kirk love letter;
    and Will County Woman will find something bad to say about Pat Quinn, regardless of topic.

    Did I miss anything?


  24. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:50 pm:

    47th ward.

    So, let me get this right. You are bashing a person for being consistent. Is that why you like PQ so much?


  25. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:54 pm:

    I find her to be consistently annoying, Dan.

    If you paid more attention to what I’ve posted here, you’d know I give Quinn his share of grief when he deserves it, and more importantly, when it is relevant in the context of the post to which I am leaving a comment.


  26. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:55 pm:

    That makes as much sense as the Chinese characters in Roland Burris’ feed in the right-hand column.


  27. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:57 pm:

    Just to be clear 47th, the Quinn Camp put it out last month that Quinn’s mom loaned his campaign money. I think their spin was that she did so because Hynes was negative (If memory serves I think it was around the time of the Harold Wahington ad).

    But to your point, is it so wrong of me to want a good governor and good government for myself and my fellow Illinoians? After all we have been through are we not entitled to good government for once? I just want the best governor that I can get, and I have stated as much before.


  28. - Janet - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:57 pm:

    Terrible. We no longer have respect or graciousness for the elders in this nation. I have and continue to become disgusted with the political system here in Illinois, especially in Chicago..


  29. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:17 pm:

    === it is fairly obvious that the vast majority of senior transit riders are low-income. ===

    Um, where do you get that from?

    Less than 9% of Illinois seniors are below the poverty level, and in Chicago its 17%.

    In fact, people 65+ have the lowest poverty rate of any age group.

    The highest poverty rate, BTW, is for children under 18…around 17% statewide and 30% in Chicago.

    Socially speaking, Free Rides for Kids makes much more sense. But Free Rides was always a political maneuver, and kids don’t vote.


  30. - Peggy SO-IL - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:17 pm:

    So, is it “no free ride for ALL” or not? Sounds like a typically falsely-named piece of legislation.


    47th Ward at 3:47 pm: How could you forget me, raising the “south of I-80 card” and going right-wing rabid or something like that?

    Do rank and file Dems have a problem with the leadership selecting their own Lt Gov candidate after they voted in an election? Is it not a thumb in the eye to voters for the leadership to select a candidate without regard to the election results?


  31. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:19 pm:

    P.S. It pains me to agree with Will County Woman on even such a minor point.


  32. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:24 pm:

    YDD - Circuit Breaker doesn’t cut off at the poverty line. It is much higher than that.


  33. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:25 pm:

    So, essentially, your post makes no point whatsoever.


  34. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:28 pm:

    47th ward,

    Don’t let WCW get you down. Annoying is actually minor compared to the horrific problems the state has. Now, if a person becomes a pest, that’s a different thing altogether.


  35. - sal - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:35 pm:

    WCW is a pest


  36. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:45 pm:

    How is it “much” higher than that, George? Where is it?


  37. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:49 pm:

    sorry to double-post here, but george i’m thinking of food stamps as an example. the federal government is keen to report that most people who are eligible for food stamps are not applying/using them because they don’t know they are eligible or don’t want to use them or whatever.

    you seem to suggest that limiting the free rides program to those who need it somehow won’t cut cost from where it is now as a liberal all inclusive program.


  38. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:51 pm:

    Use the google.

    For Illinois Cares Rx, Circuit Breaker property tax grant/ license plate discount and People with Disabilities Ride Free transit card, your total income in 2009 must be less than:

    $27,610 for a household of one;
    $36,635 for a household of two; or
    $45,657 for a household of three.

    The Poverty Level for an individual is $10,830.

    I would say Circuit Breaker limits are much higher.


  39. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 4:54 pm:

    My ultimate point being that this is just as much of a PR stunt as Blago creating the free rides program in the first place.

    Yes, it will prohibit some people from using it who make more than the Circuit Breaker eligibility. But I contest that number is just a tiny fraction.

    A tiny fraction that the savings will be near-nullified by putting new administrative and bureaucratic burdens on the system.


  40. - really? ? - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 5:23 pm:

    I have 90 year old mother that fits the circuit breaker guidelines. The last thing she would do is take public transport for free. For several reasons-one her perception of safety, two, her independence (she still drives), and three her pride. Though she could save much going to the local big supermart for groceries, she willing goes to a smaller more expensive store for groceries. This is anecodatal data for sure, but I believe (no facts) that the senior ride for free program was all form and no substance. And how would data be collected for each rider? Would the bus driver ask each what their income is? This would prompt most to walk.


  41. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 5:27 pm:

    “new administrative and bureaucratic burdens on the system.”

    that’s a little different than what you wrote initially. I don’t entirely disagree with you about the added bureacracy. But, I wonder if there necessarily have to be added administrative and bureaucratic burdens. free rides for senior already has some administrative and bureaucratic systems in place as seniors have to get a special fare card after applying for the free ride program. as far as I am aware the RTA has been administering the free ride program and processing all of the paperwork etc.


  42. - cassandra - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 5:32 pm:

    So the seniors are already at Pat Quin’s sacrifice table (the one that unionized state employees already left and that the corporates will be leaving as soon as they get around to calling their legislators), and they’ll be taking the first hit? Time to start taking notes.

    Who will stay? Who will Pat and the Dems let go?


  43. - George - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 5:33 pm:

    that’s a little different than what you wrote initially

    If it is, it was unintentional or a misread.

    The NEW administrative burdens would be that seniors would have to show proof of income each year, thus the RTA would have to issue annual cards and certify income through the State’s Department on Aging who verifies income data for seniors enrolling in circuit breaker.

    Currently, a senior just has to show proof of age to get a card (like a driver’s license). You only need to get that once (you don’t get younger), and that is a much easier process.

    For the seniors themselves, they will now have to wait until february of each year until the Circuit Breaker application comes out, then apply with all their income verification to the state. Then they have to wait for the state to submit that info to their transit agency. Then they have to go get their new annual fare card. They have to do this each year.

    And it might take them until May to get the fare card they need for their “free ride” benefit for that calendar year that began January 1.

    Like I said. Too much bureaucracy. Not gonna save any money, and it will cause a bunch of seniors to be angry at the state and the RTA.


  44. - Skirmisher - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 6:00 pm:

    Heck with the seniors! I am one, and it is an outrage that our pensions are not taxed while earnings are, and every time you turn around some self-serving politician is falling all over himself to give us more freebies and buy our votes. I would only support an income tax for working people if it also includes taxation for persons like me who do not pay their 3% and could well afford it. If the legislature doesn’t make this change quickly, however, the retiring “Boomers” will make it almost a political impossibility.


  45. - Dnstateanon - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 7:09 pm:

    Yeah those republicans just don’t understand their loser responsibility. There suppose to stand aside while the democrats spend all the revenue the state has on their constituents. Then expect republicans to help vote for the tax increase to help cover up the democrats mess, yeah right.
    “Those do nothing republicans” should support a bill that would kill the LT. Governor position so Mike Madigan’s daughter can automatically become governor if the governor has to quit?


  46. - Jeff - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 8:02 pm:

    Is it normal for Madigan to meet with the press as much as he has been doing so lately?


  47. - Will County Woman - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 8:42 pm:

    George i opposed Quinn’s creation of two new administrative/bureaucratic high-salaried dept. of corrections positions in the wake of HIS MGT Push fiasco. One of those high-salaried positions was GIVEN to a retired Chicago police officer. yet Quinn decried the notion of public pension double-dipping as he debated hynes, citing hynes’ father.


  48. - Jim - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 9:30 pm:

    Seniors and students already get a 50% discount, and cllege students whose schools participate in the UPASS program receive even larger discounts.


  49. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 9:45 pm:

    ===and cllege students whose schools participate in the UPASS program receive even larger discounts===

    No discounts for college students on Metra though. It’s too bad we don’t have one regional entity in charge of all transit in Chicagoland. If we did, there might be a common fare structure for CTA, Pace and Metra and all the systems would honor each other’s fare programs.

    There really ought to be a regional transit authority in the Chicago area…


  50. - Paul S. - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 10:42 pm:

    Is the State paying for this trip to observe the elections? And didn’t Linda Chapa Lavia recently take a trip to Turkey? Was that paid for by the state as well? Just wondering if we are broke and if we are paying for these trips overseas. Anyone know?


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