Thursday, January 10, 2008

Common Sense Thrown Under the Bus

I guess you can ignore my last post. Leave it to the Governor to get me back to blogging before I can even leave for home. No sooner had I sent an e-mail out to thousands of my constituents telling them that the bill had passed and the only thing standing in the way of it becoming law was the Governor, that very same Governor decides to amendatorily veto the bill.

In what can only be described as a bizarre misdirection to get around his vaunted, but unwarranted, no-tax pledge, the Governor issued a statement that, while he is willing to break his pledge, he is going to change the bill in order to allow senior citizens to ride public transportation in Illinois for free.

In his statement, the Governor said "I'm particularly concerned about seniors who live on fixed incomes and who don't have the ability to absorb a higher sales tax without making cuts in other areas. That's why I will rewrite the bill to allow all senior citizens in Illinois to take public transportation for free."

Where should I even start with the outrageousness of this latest action? Let's try these:

1. The bill is the product of unprecedented negotiations and compromise by elected officials, transit leaders, union leaders, pretty much everybody but the Governor. His action, once again, tries to supplant his unilateral will over the greater good, not to mention common sense.

2. A .25% sales tax increase amounts to a penny on a $4 purchase. A quarter on a $100 purchase. This is a reasonable price to pay for the benefits of a good mass transit system, benefits realized by riders and non-riders alike .

3. The seniors on fixed income who the Governor is so concerned about get absolutely NO benefit from the Governor's action if they are not mass transit users.

4. The tax is only imposed on consumers in the RTA service area. What's the basis for providing free rides to seniors on downstate mass transit since they aren't impacted by the sales tax increase? This measure also cuts into the revenues of these transit systems at a time when we passed a bill trying to give them more funding, not less.

Lastly, by virtue of his actions, the bill which passed the House with a slim margin of 62 votes, now has to go back for reconsideration, thus risking it again being held hostage by the capital bill/gaming bill proponents.

I could keep going, but I really want to get on the road. File today under the category of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.


At January 10, 2008 at 5:24 PM, Anonymous DuPage Saint said...

I have a question. Has the Gov defined senior citizen yet?

At January 11, 2008 at 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

65, but I hear that he's also giving free health insurance to anybody with a bus pass.

At January 11, 2008 at 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John - do you advocate having to force low income seniors to choose between purchasing food/medicine or paying an increase in sales taxes?

I really don't want to live in that world, John.

The governor is right on this one. Everyone wants to tax seniors living on fixed incomes into oblivion. Why does the Illinois legislature want to force them into making ridiculous choices like food or taxes?

At January 11, 2008 at 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He must be expecting there to be a lot of seniors in the jury pool.

At January 11, 2008 at 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the above poster on seniors chosing between food/medicine & transit...because a .25% sales tax is keeping anyone from buying anything.

.25% x a $100 purchase = 25 cents

Are you telling me that is the straw that broke the camels back?

At January 11, 2008 at 12:24 PM, Anonymous Esteban said...

It is my understanding that-as a group-senior citizens have more
disposable income each month than
any other segment of society.

However, does anyone remember what
happened to Rostenkowski in the late '80s when there was a move to base Medicare premiums on income and assets?

At January 11, 2008 at 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me insensitive, but I have a hard time believing that the 0.25% is will cause anyone to have to choose between riding the bus and paying for food/medicine.

At January 11, 2008 at 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, let me say I am a big fan of Rep. Fritchey. I believe he is looking out for us in Chicago.

I understand a sales tax - it is one of the only ways to tax everyone that benefits from public transit - which is everyone that lives in or visits the 5 or 6 counties affected, whether they use it or not.

My problem is with the real estate transfer increase. This puts an unfair burden on property owners, when there are a LOT of people riding the CTA that are renters. The reality is, that increase will probably never make it's way to renters from landlords. So once again in Chicago, property owners get screwed again.

I won't even get started on Gov. Hugovich's senior citizen break.

At January 11, 2008 at 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Governor was really concerned about the effect on seniors he would have excluded the sales tax increase to not include food. This would limit the impact to all low income people. At least they did not pay for with just raising the gasoline tax thus making those who cannot use mass transmit to pay for those who can.
I think the people who benefit the most from mass transit are those that actually use it. Although I admit it reduces road congestion a little.

At January 11, 2008 at 3:22 PM, Anonymous Quilleran said...

Why seniors? Why not low-income? This just doesn't make sense. There's a huge number of upper class and middle class retired people who aren't hurting for cash in the city and suburbs. Traveling around the city and from the suburbs is generally discretionary income for those who don't work or go to school. And there's also a number of people still commuting at age 65 who don't really need the money. Sure, it's nice to have, but not worth the cost to our transit systems in the end. Instead, why not do that for people below a certain income bracket? That would really help the people for whom the cost of transit is a barrier to higher paid jobs in other areas of the city or suburbs. It isn't as though this group wouldn't include those the governor is supposedly trying to help: the poor senior citizen trying to get by on social security.

At January 11, 2008 at 3:29 PM, Anonymous PL said...

John lets just tax homeowners until we all become renters.Yeah a few dollars here and a few dollars there whats the big deal right. Well my waterbill just went up there seems to be alot of taxes on all my other utilities. You guys deregulated electricity and now we pay com ed and a middleman for guess what more expensive electricity. There is so much goddam waste at the cta to dip in my pocket again to pay for it makes me sick. Why don't you hold daley and his buddies accountable for the dumping ground of patronage the cta Has become. Nobody takes responsibilty for the errors of their ways in this state. Just tax and spend your way out of poor political judgments. Tax and spend, tax and Spend it is really not what we elected you guys to do.

Happy New Year and I for one hope the whole CTA deal gets overturned.


At January 11, 2008 at 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he wants more people to ride public transportation for free.

A day after including free rides for senior citizens in the mass-transit bailout, the governor said Friday he'll propose in his next budget that disabled people also ride without charge.

Blagojevich said he considered including that in the latest mass-transit bill but didn't want to give lawmakers an excuse to hold up the bailout. The measure increases sales and real estate transfer taxes in Chicago and its suburbs to prop up public transit systems.

At January 11, 2008 at 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG, I'd call him retarded but I don't want to offend the mentally disabled. Not by using the term, but by comparing them to this Governor.

At January 11, 2008 at 8:02 PM, Anonymous NoGiftsPlease said...

If he really wanted to do something, he would have found a way to provide dial a ride service all over the region under consistent rules, not the inconsistent, incomplete patchwork there is now.

Also, the state provides a "reduced fare subsidy" to the transit agencies. Will the reduced fare subsidy be increased because of this? Would that be a PR moment for the cameras with increased state subsidy coming in the back door?

The service boards have a 50% farebox recovery ratio, meaning they have to nominally collect another dollar in fares for every dollar in operating funds they get. How is providing more operating subsidy while eliminating the fare revenue from a large group of people going to make this easier?

At January 12, 2008 at 5:48 AM, Anonymous Yipes said...

As a Chicago senior I am delighted to be singled out as a recipient of illegal political charity by Gov Blagojevich. Much more of his charity and we won't have any buses in town. That means I will look to him for even more charity - a limo with driver would be nice to get me to my doctors' offices. No, wait -- all medical care providers should make house calls or provide free transportation to their facilities.
Well, you get my drift. We, seniors, need to pay our fair share. And if 25 cents on $100 is our fair share, then let us pay it. It is past time to end wasting taxpayer $$ on political wrangling in over-long legislative sessions. The governor surely can find other ways to grandstand and pose as the savior of - landfills, maybe?

At January 12, 2008 at 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I am 65 and disabled will the Gov pay me to ride? How about pregnant women shouldn't they ride free esp if going to doctor? What about people going to vote? Why not just have corportations pay for everyone after all they pay no taxes and lots of people have to ride the bus to work at them so they are really benefiting and should pay

At January 12, 2008 at 4:39 PM, Anonymous transitrider said...

Choose between food versus taxes?

Food isn't taxed. If your priority is food and rent, the tax has no impact on you--except you continue to live in a city that can function, and have a transit system that provides you access to jobs and groceries.

The tax on people will be much greater if this doesn't get passed now--which should have been signed as it was or this idea should have been included months ago. But instead the Governor seems to fancy himself a legislator, too, and vetoed the bill. It's pretty outrageous.

The Sun-Times had a chart showing what the tax increase means for people. It's really quite nominal.

If you're buying a $599.99 computer from Best Buy in Chicago, for example, you pay $653.99 after taxes are added today. After the transit tax, that would come out to $655.62.

The difference after funding a transit system that already saves us untold amounts of money by keeping costs of shipping and living down, which could save us $2 billion in the $4 billion we waste each year (per Texas Transportation Institute study) if properly invested in, on something as large as a $600 purchase, is $1.63. And it does not apply to groceries or medication or even buying a car.

This is a tax we can all afford.

At January 13, 2008 at 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great move by the Gov. I know that many seniors that will enjoy a more active life because of this.

At January 14, 2008 at 9:36 AM, Anonymous PL said...

Transitrider says this is a nominal tax we can all afford just a 1.63 on a 600.00 purchase all the while ignoring the real tax increase which hits property owners. From MArk Browns column in the Suntimes ,

"While most of the focus on the transit-funding legislation has been directed at the regional sales tax hike, a key component of the bill sent Thursday to Gov. Blagojevich is an increase of up to 40 percent in the city's tax on real estate sales.

Chicago's real estate transfer tax -- currently $7.50 per $1,000 of sale price --would jump $3 to $10.50 per $1,000 if the City Council enacts the tax authorized by the General Assembly.

On last year's average $254,000 single-family home sale in Chicago, that would have meant a tax increase of $762. On the average condominium sale of $334,000, it would have meant paying $1,002 more in taxes at closing."

Now mister transitrider tell me how fair that tax is and how we can all afford it.


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