RTA: State fee costing millions, could lead to more fare hikes
With two weeks remaining in the spring legislative session, Illinois lawmakers have yet to resolve key issues affecting transit riders' pocketbooks, leaving agencies on tenterhooks.
A deal reached in the General Assembly in July 2017 gave the state a budget for the first time in two years but it shorted Metra, Pace and the CTA by millions of dollars, the RTA estimates.
"We're in the final days of what's left in the legislative session (and) they're still working on it ... there's no agreement," RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden said Thursday. "We're engaging as much as we can in conversation. It's a wait-and-see game."
A 2 percent collection fee the state imposed on sales taxes intended for transit is estimated to have a $23 million impact and a 10 percent cut in sales tax is estimated at $40 million. Metra, Pace and the CTA instituted fare hikes partly as a result of the state budget and several officials warned more could follow if the collection fee continues or sales taxes are slashed again.
"It's too premature to say," Redden said regarding fare increases following an RTA meeting.
In the meantime, the state owes about $450 million to the RTA to pass on to the three transit agencies. The RTA is borrowing about $150 million in the short term to help cover operating expenses.
The expediency occurs regularly with the state's continued fiscal problems but has a cost, officials said. Borrowing to cover funding gaps cost the RTA $5.7 million in 2017 and about $1.6 million to date.