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Is A Transit Funding Solution Upon Us?

By Margaret Lyons in News on Nov 27, 2007 11:02PM


We're trying not to jinx it, but it looks like legislators might be solving the transit crisis, like, tomorrow. Mike Madigan agreed today to push for a Blago-backed plan that would use the State's share of the sales tax on gasoline in Cook and the five collar counties for the RTA. Even Daley's on board. Are we seeing a unicorn?

Last week, Blagojevich endorsed Minority Leader Tom Cross's plan that would send around $385 million a year to the CTA, Metra and Pace, but Madigan had been holding out for a quarter-percent increase in Cook and collar County sales taxes. So why the change of heart, Mr. Speaker?

Some legislative observers have privately questioned the sincerity of Madigan's change of heart, noting that a massive capital program is not part of the equation and that no way has been found to plug the gas tax hole.

They wonder whether the wily speaker isn't simply calling the governor's bluff by setting the gas tax compromise up for a defeat in the state Senate. That would shift the blame to Blagojevich and his ally, Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago).

In a letter to state legislators, Madigan and transit committee chairperson Julie Hamos say they want to resolve the issue before the holidays. But most of the letter is positively bristling with animosity, and it includes such digs as "...we choose to take Governor Blagojevich and Republican Leader Cross at their word...." Oh, snap! That's a third-degree burn!

And the on-going dick-wagging contest isn't the only issue with the funding proposal. So far, there hasn't been a discussion of what could fill that $385 million hole in the budget after money is diverted to transit. But still. Step in the right direction.

Brown Line panorama by Joshua Mellin