Gov again urges lawmakers to pass transit plan

January 7, 2008 4:17:29 PM PST
Governor Blagojevich is inviting Chicago-area transit riders to write or videotape their concerns about threatened service cuts and fare hikes as the so-called doomsday plan is now two weeks away.

The word now is that two competing mass transit funding bills will be called for a vote in the house on Wednesday. There is no guarantee that either will be passed by the house, and then the senate, but time for a resolution is running short.

In the Thompson Center Monday afternoon, the governor's office invited CTA riders to weigh in on what a public transit "doomsday" would mean to them.

"It's an extra hour for me to get to work. I might just buy a bike and go that route," said Teddy Harris, CTA rider.

All these short testimonials are going to be put on DVD with individual copies delivered by the governor's office to every member of the General Assembly.

Legislators ABC7 has spoken to say they will be happy to watch, but they already know what's at stake. The question is, what bill gets called for them to vote on?

"I can't sign thin air. The legislature has to send me something," said Blagojevich.

The Governor Monday afternoon stood in the same spot and delivered the same message as he did six days ago. Pass a bill, he urged.

There are two bills that will be called in the house on Wednesday. One would take $400 million from gas tax money to fund mass transit. That bill, which the governor prefers, would leave a big financial hole to fill.

The other bill, led by mass transit committee chair Julie Hamos, would fund transit through a sales tax hike in the five county Chicagoland area. The governor's opposed to that because of the tax hike, but if it emerged as the best alternative with doomsday knocking, would the governor veto it?

"My preference is to pass something that does not raise taxes on people. Pass something that I can sign immediately. If they believe they want to do something other than that, then send me something, let me take a look at it, and give me a chance to make it better and improve it," said the governor.

His legislative critics say while the governor has an amendatory veto, it doesn't give him the authority to rewrite legislation. But the concern right now, certainly among the CTA riders offering testimonials Monday, is that the General Assembly move a transit plan this week.

As the January 20 deadline nears, the pressure grows to get something passed. The Hamos bill did get 61 votes when it was called weeks ago, and if that support remains it could pass the house. But that's a question mark. So too is the senate.

The only certainty is Wednesday's regular session will be much better attended and last a lot longer than last week's not-so-special session.