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updated: 9/28/2012 2:32 PM

Power struggle over transit continues

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  • John S. Gates Jr.

      John S. Gates Jr.

 
 

It's expected to be a weekend of negotiations between the CTA, Pace, Metra and Regional Transportation leaders after they failed to resolve a budget impasse that pits city against suburbs.

RTA directors adjourned their meeting within seconds of calling it to order Friday after Chairman John S. Gates Jr. explained the three transit agencies were still at odds over how much revenue each would get from the agency in discretionary funds.

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"At 7 or 8 p.m. last night we'd come to a spot were we thought there was consensus," Gates said, adding that this morning it became apparent the votes weren't there. "Some people were concerned this negotiation was going too far, too fast. It become apparent as late as 8:45 this morning we weren't quite there yet. But we're very close to reaching a regional consensus."

The debate centers on $184.8 million in "discretionary" funds. Most of the money the agencies get is determined by a state formula giving the CTA 56 percent, Metra 32 percent and Pace 12 percent of revenues. But the RTA can independently dole out what's known as discretionary revenues, although traditionally the CTA gets at least 95 percent.

For 2013, RTA staff recommended the CTA get 95 percent of the $184.8 million, or $175.8 million. Pace and Metra, the suburban bus and commuter train service, would each get $4.5 million in 2013, according to the staff plan.

CTA leaders say the agency has a troublesome budget shortfall and a growing ridership so it needs 99 percent of the discretionary money.

The negotiations are now down to the allocation of about $6 million, officials said. The RTA has financial oversight of the three agencies and was supposed to finalize how much in revenues each received on Sept. 15. That deadline passed and the concern now is to reach an agreement so the agencies can prepare and pass budgets that also need RTA approval by Dec. 31, which is mandated by state law.

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