The Doomsday vote for transit will be in Springfield today, it will cost between $50,000 and $100,000 in travel expenses for congress alone. I wonder doesn't Governor Blagojevich know that seniors already ride at half price? This has been the most talked about subject in the news since Blagojevich came up with this. It is predicted it will pass, and not by a lot. This will be a close vote.
Doomsday plan up for vote
State lawmakers are set to vote Thursday on a last-minute measure that would avert major CTA service cuts and employee layoffs scheduled for Sunday while giving free rides to all senior citizens statewide.
Fares would rise to a maximum of $3.25 for rush hour train service from their current price of $2, and 2,400 employees will lose their jobs.
The 81 CTA bus routes provide more than 320,000 rides daily, according to CTA officials. Only about 70,000 of those rides are expected to find other bus routes or train lines, which means the CTA could potentially lose 250,000 rides a day, nearly one quarter of its current total.
"The original bill would have increased sales taxes in Cook County and the collar counties, and ordered the Chicago City Council to approve a 40 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax - from $7.50 to $10.50 per $1,000 of the sale price. Blagojevich amended the bill to provide free rides for senior citizens to defray the impact of the tax hike.
Critics, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, have questioned Blagojevich's proposal, calling it a political measure to save face after the governor promised not to raise sales or income taxes during his campaign.
The measure would provide more than $494 million in funding to get the CTA through its current budget crisis and $50 million for transit agencies in other parts of Illinois. The proposed spending has angered some lawmakers from other parts of the state, who feel their constituents should not have to subsidize Chicago's mass transit.
Senior citizen Nate Clark said he rides CTA buses every day but thinks the governor's plan to provide seniors with free rides is a waste.
"Senior citizens get a pretty good break right now," said Clark, a Rogers Park resident. "It's more of a political ploy."
It is estimated that the free rides will cost the agency between $20 and $30 million a year, with 1.3 million Illinois residents 65-and-over able to ride for free.
"There are a lot of seniors who can afford to pay," he said. "We should give free rides to the people who can't afford it and really could use them."
The threatened service cuts are unlikely to go into effect, said Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.
When Governor Blagojevich came up with free rides for seniors didn't he realize they are already riding for half price? I was listening to Steve Dahl on the radio and he said this is the Governors major plan so the seniors will have free rides to vote him in again. Actually this subject is the most talked about in the news, in print and on the radio. I also heard today's vote in Springfield will cost $50,000 to $100,000 in travel expenses for the congress.
"I've been around here a long time, and these 'Doomsdays' come up time and time again, and they don't happen," he said.
The CTA Crisis
-Sept. 14, 2007: Cuts postponed until Nov. 4 when CTA president Ron Huberman accepted a $24 million advance from Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
-Nov. 4, 2007: Cuts postponed again to 2008 after Blagojevich secures a $27 million grant.
-Nov. 7, 2007: To compensate for a $158 million shortfall, the CTA schedules its bus cuts, layoffs and fare increases for Jan. 20.
-Jan. 10, 2008: The General Assembly passes the CTA funding bill which relies on a 0.25 percent increase in sales tax to make up for the deficit.
-Jan. 15, 2008: The measure passes an Illinois House of Representatives transit panel Wednesday in a 16-5 vote.
-Today: The General Assembly is expected to vote on the measure with Blagojevich's amendment as early as today.
-Jan. 20, 2008: If the proposal for government funding is not approved, the CTA's service cuts and fare hikes will take effect.