Friday, August 10, 2007

Campaign for Sensible Growth opposes budget without new transit revenues

STATE BUDGET PROPOSAL THREATENS REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT, TRANSIT SYSTEM Campaign for Sensible Growth opposes budget without new transit revenues

(Chicago) … The Campaign for Sensible Growth is appalled that the Illinois General Assembly is preparing to pass a state budget with no new revenues dedicated to Chicago-area transit. The Campaign’s staff leader today expressed concern that planning reforms and innovations passed by the legislature this session will get lost in the same shuffle, despite months of deliberation during the legislative overtime session.

“If adequate funding to support public transportation – a no-brainer in any well-planned region – is left off the payroll, it’s likely that other sensible growth programs and initiatives will be threatened by this nearsighted budget,” said Michael Davidson, manager, Campaign for Sensible Growth.

“Our region is expected to grow by 2 million people by 2030, and add an additional 1.2 millions jobs. At a time when we’re so obviously in need of long-term planning, we cannot abide short-term budgeting.”

Davidson did applaud the Illinois General Assembly for its important work this session to pass SB 1201, which would create a $5 million Comprehensive Regional Planning Fund to help metropolitan Chicago and other regions take a long-term view to plan for more effective investment and development decisions. Now awaiting Governor Blagojevich's signature, the bill is intended to help regional organizations like the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), which was formed recently to integrate planning for land use and transportation in the seven-county region. But that modest funding is just a start, said Davidson, and the state needs to make serious ? not stop-gap ? investments in transportation infrastructure, including transit.

The Illinois General Assembly also unanimously approved the Green Neighborhood Award Act (SB 135), a leap forward for community planning that may take a step back if state funding comes up short. The bill proposes incentives for developers who create communities that feature green buildings and pedestrian and bike-friendly streets, to reduce overall energy consumption, encourage strong local economies, improve public health, and save communities and consumers money.

“A family living in a green neighborhood stands to cut annual energy and transportation costs by $3,148 ? a far cry from most individuals and families across the region who continually brace themselves to dig deeper in their pockets to afford transportation costs,” said Davidson.

Indeed, unless lawmakers identify funding for transit, come September, the Chicago Transit Authority and Pace will move forward with deep service cuts in the city and suburbs as well as significant fare hikes. All three transit service providers – CTA, Metra and Pace – will be forced to indefinitely put off much-needed maintenance projects, threatening the safety and reliability of the transit system as a whole.

“Lawmakers cannot campaign from a platform of a strong economy and high quality of life and then undermine a critical component of both — a regional transit system that helps guide growth,” said Davidson.

“Delay tactics for dedicated funding streams is bad politics and poor public policy, and the result is a disproportionate burden on taxpaying citizens down the road. Investing in the long term pays dividends. That’s just good business.”

Contact: Michael Davidson
Manager, Campaign for Sensible Growth
312-863-6009 / 773-550-7927


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