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Blago Continues Making Friends in Transit

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Nov 29, 2008 8:30PM

2008_11_29_blago.jpgGovernor Blagojevich is currently putting together a plan that, if passed, would force all transit agencies that hike fares in 2009 and 2010 to institute a salary freeze. Yes, the same Governor Blagojevich who played chicken with the CTA during last year's doomsday threats just so he could implement free rides for seniors, a program that is costing the CTA a nice bundle of money. Still, in Blago's defense, his plan only affects nonunion employees - union salaries are determined by collective bargaining agreements - and is mainly aimed at executives, many of whom actually saw a pay increase in 2008.

Salaries for dozens of transit executives continued to rise in 2008 after state bailout money started to flow, records show. The Chicago Sun-Times Watchdogs column reported Monday that the number of Pace executives who make more than $100,000 a year increased from 13 in 2006 to 20 this year.

Pace, the CTA and RTA, the umbrella agency for the Chicago area's transit agencies, plan salary increases again in 2009, officials said.

"How about these bureaucrats who sit on the Pace board who just socked it to the ratepayers by increasing fares?" Blagojevich told reporters last week. "And what do they do with the money? They give themselves pay raises. They hire more people they don't need. They take care of their friends and their cronies at the expense of people who right now are looking at us to make their lives easier, not more difficult."

Pace, CTA, and RTA would be the targets of the legislation; Metra raised fares in 2008 and doesn't plan do so in 2009, meaning they're clear of the plan. And, unless there's something more to the plan we don't know about yet, it actually kind of makes sense. If Huberman is going to huff and puff about fare hikes and costs of upkeep, we think he can do without a few extra pennies added to his $198,000 salary.

Wait. Did we just agree with the Governor?