CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today commended the General Assembly for accepting his improvements to a long-term mass transit funding bill that provides free public transportation to Illinois seniors. The Illinois Senate this afternoon voted 32 to 19 to accept the Governor’s Amendatory Veto to House Bill 656. The House earlier in the day accepted the Governor’s changes, 61-47. Last week, after the General Assembly approved a CTA funding bill that relies in part on a .25% increase in the sales tax in Chicago and surrounding counties, the Governor rewrote the bill to minimize the impact on seniors by allowing them to use public transportation for free.
"Finally, the long struggle to find a long-term transit funding solution is over. Crippling service cuts, fare hikes, and lay-offs were averted and Illinois seniors will be able to travel for free on public transportation," Governor Blagojevich said. "A good compromise never makes everyone happy, but I thank the General Assembly for coming together and approving my change."
HB 656 provides over $494 million in new, recurring funding for the Regional Transportation Authority, which includes the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace; and another $50 million for transit agencies in other parts of Illinois. With a long-term funding plan in place, the Chicago area transit agencies have said they will not cut services, raise fares or lay-off workers on January 20, as planned. The legislation also implements important pension and oversight reforms within the RTA.
The Governor’s amendatory veto will require transit agencies statewide to allow senior citizens, aged 65 and older, to use main line and fixed route public transit service for free. A senior who uses public transportation twice a week could save $176 a year on CTA fares, $156 a year on Pace fares and $405 a year on Metra fares. There are approximately 1.3 million seniors living in communities across Illinois that have mass transit service.
HB 656 is effective immediately.