Chicago Sun-Times

CTA pension deal ups the ante in Springfield

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The CTA has reached a five-year agreement with its unions governing wages, health-care and pension reforms, putting the heat on the Illinois General Assembly to act to avert threatened fare hikes and service cuts.

Basically, the CTA struck a deal that involves giving its bus drivers, motormen and other unionized employees a 16 percent pay raise over five years. But those raises would be eaten up by higher contributions to health care and the CTA's severely underfunded pension fund, which is expected to run out in less than five years.

By making its pension and health care programs more cost-effective, “The CTA has accomplished what the governor and legislative leaders have demanded as a condition for reforming public transit funding,” Mayor Daley said at an afternoon press conference today.

The CTA, under new President Ron Huberman, has already announced $18.5 million in administrative cuts designed to show lawmakers that the agency is trimming the fat from its budget. Even so, without $97.5 million in state funding, drastic service cuts and fare increases are inevitable, officials have said.

Still, the response from Springfield has been non-committal, and today was no exception. Gov. Blagojevich lauded the CTA-union agreement, but said he won't approve a regional sales tax increase that's being pushed by the RTA, CTA and some legislative leaders as a funding solution.

More than one transportation expert has said it will take the CTA, Metra and Pace going through with the severe cuts and fare hikes they're proposing before the legislature makes a move. Do you agree?

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In this day and age, as the private sector is making changes to its pension and health & insurance benefits, it doesn't make sense that public employees should not also share in the cuts. We're all making cuts and sacrifices. The workers should be in a 401k plan and save just like the rest of us. I get a 3% raise every year, but the benefits go up 2-3% a year, so I haven't gained in 2 years.

I'm sure they will work out their differences.

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