Derailed - Updated
In the latest act of the 2007 Comedy of Errors Tour, SB572, legislation designed to fund and reform mass transit in northeastern Illinois, failed to gain sufficient votes for passage, receiving only 61 of the 71 votes necessary for passage.
The real surprise wasn't the number of Republican votes for the bill, however, it was the number of Democrats who did not support this issue that is critical to so many of us and our constituents. Some of the 'no' votes were disappointing but not shocking (Chapa LaVia, Franks), but others were very curious indeed.
A handful of Democratic legislators allied with the Governor did not support the bill, and while I don't want to get into a he said/she said exercise, it is my understanding that the Governor (either directly or through his office) was involved in pulling votes off of the bill.
My understanding is that the Governor may announce a 'plan' as early as tomorrow to address both the mass transit issue as well as the larger issue of a capital bill. For those keeping count, this plan would be in line behind the one to 'rock the system' on campaign finance and ethics; the one to improve health care for Illinoisans, and countless others.
One of the biggest impediments to any capital bill proposed by the Administration is a concern by members on both sides of the aisle that any projects set forth is such a bill would actually be funded. For those unfamiliar with the process, having a project enumerated in the budget is only part of the battle. The Governor's office has to then release the funding for the project. And there's the rub. The atmosphere right now is so poisoned that few people are willing to trust that their projects would actually see the light of day. (Save for the occasional half a bridge here and there.)
Accordingly, as recent events have shown, getting a capital bill passed is going to be an uphill battle to say the least. In the interim, however, if the Chicago public senses that the Governor should wear the jacket for the impending fee hikes and service cuts, his long summer may just get a little longer.
UPDATE - I just finished an interesting conversation with an individual well-versed in this process for longer than me who brought up a very interesting scenario. Realizing that 71 votes cannot be obtained for the bill, the Speaker could choose not exert any more real effort on this until the new session in January, at which time we would only need 60 votes to pass the bill.
Assuming that the blame in the interim can be laid at the feet of the Governor, which may not be real hard to do, this would have the double effect of having thousands of increasingly frustrated transit riders grow increasingly angry with the Governor while at the same time creating the ability to pass the bill over to the Senate, thus forcing both the Senate President's hand and putting an exorbitant amount of pressure on the Governor to address the issue on terms set by the Legislature.
Let me repeat, this is nothing more than conjecture, albeit very interesting conjecture at that.
The real problem with the above scenario of course, is that thousands of transit riders will suffer in the interim, and that even if a fix is had after the September 16 cut-off date, many riders who leave the system may not return to it.
This problem illustrates the bigger picture problem here, namely that as the political oneupmanship continues to grow, so do the needs and frustrations of the people of Illinois. Now it the time for statesmanship not gamesmanship.