Transit agencies spend big on lobbying at state level, study finds
BY STEPHEN DI BENEDETTTO Staff Reporteremail@example.com June 9, 2011 6:28PM
SPRINGFIELD — Led by Chicago’s transit agencies, spending on state lobbying by local governments and other public bodies jumped 14 percent in 2010, according to a report released Thursday by a prominent government watchdog.
The increase to nearly $7.5 million comes at a time when cities and counties are looking to preserve their share of state dollars during an era of austerity at the Capitol.
“Certainly the state budget is a mess, and a lot of municipalities are worried their state taxes might be cut. I think that it’s driving a lot of it,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which authored the report.
The Regional Transportation Authority and its service boards, including the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace, made up a sizeable chunk of the $7.5 million total — spending just under $1.03 million on lobbyists. The CTA accounted for more than $370,000 of that transit total.
RTA spokeswoman Diane Palmer argued her agency’s lobbying endeavors are necessary to ensuring agencies receive what they need from the state. RTA lobbyists helped pass the $31-billion capital projects bill in 2009 and help defeat sales-tax legislation this year that would have cost millions of dollars a year for RTA and its service boards.
“Federal and state lobbyists that we work with effectively supplement agency staff’s advocacy work to advance transit policies and funding that are beneficial to our transit system’s 2 million daily riders and our region’s economy,” Palmer said.
Aside from the RTA and its service boards, the Chicago Board of Education and the City Colleges of Chicago spent the most, doling out $211,000 and $192,000 respectively. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority spent $136,667 on lobbying in Springfield, the group found.
Chicago spent $26,000 on lobbyists, which was the same as in 2009.
Overall, local governments spent $900,000 more on lobbyists from 2009 to 2010, the group reported.
Using the state’s open-records law, the organization obtained lobbying contracts from 141 local governments for work performed by 77 lobbying entities between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010.
The Springfield lobbying firm with the most local government contracts is Illinois Governmental Consulting Group, which was paid more than $379,000 during the period. It represents McPier, Pace, Bridgeview, Norridge and the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
The group wants to see more disclosure, such as revealing contract terms and what lobbyists are paid. Lobbyists now must only disclose how much they spend wining and dining legislators and broadly what topic was discussed.
The group’s report can be viewed at www.ilcampaign.org.