Limited space in today's paper kept me from providing more details about Tuesday's transit rally at the Thompson Center, where Mayor Daley, House Speaker Mike Madigan and several others tried to put pressure on Governor Blagojevich and the General Assembly to pass a funding package for mass transit.
If you've been reading or watching the news at all lately, you know that Mayor Daley and officials from the RTA, CTA, Metra and Pace have made almost daily pleas to the legislature to beef up transit funding in order to avoid fare increases and service cuts. You also know that the RTA wants the General Assembly to raise money for transit by passing a bill that would increase the RTA sales tax in Cook and the collar counties by one-quarter of 1 percent and an additional one-quarter percent in the collar counties.
What set Tuesday's rally apart was Madigan standing at the podium, making his first public show of support for the transit funding bill sponsored by State Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston).
"This is a good, sound piece of legislation that should be enacted," Madigan told the crowd at the rally.
In typical fashion, Madigan also blamed Blagojevich for the bill's slow progress in the General Assembly, since the governor has said he won't support a sales tax increase.
But Blagojevich's camp fired back, calling Madigan a hypocrite for being at the rally when he refused to attend special sessions called by Blagojevich to hammer out a funding plan for transit. Madigan also sabatoged the governor's multi-billion capital plan to raise money for transit and other infrastructure needs, Blagojevich's people say.
"The governor has been calling on the legislature for quite some time to work on these issues," Blagojevich spokesman Gerardo Cardenas said. "It’s ironic that the speaker who opposed the capital plan and special sessions shows up at a rally for the CTA."
Instead of increasing the RTA sales tax, Blagojevich wants to raise money for transit by closing corporate tax loopholes for certain businesses.
Hamos said she thinks she has enough bipartisan support to pass her bill on Sept. 4 and override the governor's veto. RTA Chair Jim Reilly thinks so, too.
What do you think? Will legislators be able to put aside their differences and get a funding bill passed before Doomsday hits on Sept. 16?