Suburban lawmakers are on the verge of cutting a deal to raise the sales tax by a half-cent to bail out the CTA, Metra, Pace and build more roads.
A quarter-cent would go to keep trains and buses running, while the other quarter cent would go to suburban counties to build new roads and widen existing ones.
The increase means taxpayers buying $100 worth of merchandise in the collar counties will pay 50 cents more. That hike amounts to 25 cents in suburban Cook County. In a town like Streamwood, the total sales tax would be 9.25 percent.
Initial suburban opposition was quelled Wednesday as the RTA cut the amount of cash going to the CTA, raised the amount going to Metra and Pace and required Chicago taxpayers to pony up much more in the form of a real estate transfer tax.
Lawmakers in Springfield are close to a deal to keep Chicago's mass transit system running. It includes $500 million to bail out the CTA, Metra and Pace, and avoid service cuts and fare hikes.
Get ABC7 Newsletters
Get Desktop Alerts
The transit deal may still need a tweak or two, and a green light from Mayor Daley, who is out of the country. But most of the concerns have been addressed and the architects of the plan are cautiously optimistic they can round up enough votes in Springfield to pass it in the next week or so, even though Governor Blagojevich is threatening a veto because it raises the sales tax.
"At the end of the day, this is a piece of legislation that everyone can be proud to support. We really have covered all the bases," said State Rep. Julie Hamos, (D) transportation chairman.
Months of meetings at the state capitol in Springfield have finally produced a tentative agreement on a massive transit plan that would bail out the CTA financially in exchange for key pension and labor reforms, but most importantly, the massive fare hikes and service cuts threatened for September would be cancelled.
"To truly solve our fiscal crisis, especially when it's married with pension and health care reform," said Ron Huberman, CTA president.
The plan would pump $550 million into CTA, Metra, Pace, para-transit and downstate carriers, the money coming from a sales tax increase of a quarter percent in the city and the suburbs, which means 25 cents on a $100 purchase.
In addition, the Chicago City Council would raise the transfer tax on home sales in the city, and Chicago would share power on the transit boards more equally with the suburbs and collar counties, all of which attracts enough republican votes to pass the bill, according to the chairman of the RTA.
"This is a great vote for the Republicans and I think there will be enough votes to pass and sustain an override," said Jim Reilly, RTA chairman.
The governor is threatening to veto the bill because it includes a higher sales tax.
"It makes no sense to raise taxes on people so you can avoid raising fares. I'm against both," said Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Supporters of the bill point out that it takes the same number of votes to override a veto, as it does to pass it, in an overtime session.
"The governor's threat of a veto about what we consider to be a minor regional sales tax is hurting our efforts and it's unfortunate," said State Senator John Cullerton, (D) Chicago.
Representative Hamos is tentatively planning a vote in the House next Tuesday, if the transit deal doesn't get derailed by the same ugly politics that created the ongoing budget stalemate. It takes a three-fifths majority to pass anything in the overtime session, and the same three-fifths to override a veto, so if the bill passes the House and Senate it can probably survive the governor's veto pen.