Bad News for the CTA

By Kevin Robinson in News on Sep 5, 2007 1:00PM

Bad news hit the Chicagoist offices late yesterday afternoon as word came through that SB572 — the bill that would have raised sales taxes in Cook County and the five surrounding "collar" counties, as well as the real estate tax in Chicago, to help fund regional transit — failed to reach a "supermajority" of 71 votes in the Illinois House. Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston), sponsor of the bill, halted voting and placed it on the Order of Postponed Consideration, in hopes of rounding up the needed votes.

2007_9_cta.jpgHouse Democrats provided the majority of the 61-48 vote, with a handful of Chicago-area Republicans joining in. House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) said that he opposes the bill, preferring to pass a massive capital bill to support construction projects around the state. Mass transit should be part of that spending plan, he said. Besides Cross, Blagojevich opposes the tax increase as well, saying:

I believe a tax on working families for transportation is a backdoor fare hike, and I believe the legislature was correct in rejecting that approach. For months I have urged the leadership in the House to consider alternatives, but unfortunately no progress has been made. Now, after the legislature’s rejection of Speaker Madigan’s tax increase, we are in early September without a resolution and the clock still ticking. This has never been a question of whether we should fund mass transit — that is essential. It is a question of how. I will continue to push to close corporate loopholes and to find other sources of revenue to help fund the CTA and RTA without raising taxes on people.

Hamos implored legislators to support the transit bill, saying "rarely is a vote so important," while suggesting that the international decision to let Chicago host the 2016 Olympics would be influenced by Illinois' vote on this bill. House Speaker Mike Madigan has vowed to go back and try and get enough votes to pass this bill, saying:

We’ll talk to all interested parties on the issue. We’ll talk to Rep. Cross … to find converts for this bill…. There were certain Downstate Democrats who in my judgment were voting no because the governor’s office was telling them to vote no. If you’re looking for areas to find additional votes, I would suggest you look at the House Republicans and those who are interested in working with the office of Gov. Blagojevich.... This is a good, solid bill. This is a bill that ought to have the support of a governor of Illinois who lives in the City of Chicago and within blocks of the most popular rapid transit lines in the city, that being the Brown Line. This should have the support of the [House Republicans] because there is capital in the bill.... There ought to be enthusiastic support for this bill.

The legislation is expected to come back up for a vote as soon as Madigan thinks he has the votes to pass it. That won't happen this week, and it might not happen next week, either. As we headed home from work last night, sweaty and packed shoulder-to-shoulder on the L, we wondered how much worse it could get. We may be forced to find out. As the General Assembly quibbles and quarrels over this bill, it's sure to be a tense few weeks here in the City by the Lake.

Thanks to Rich Miller for the extended quotes!

Image via TheeErin.