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Mayor denounces state reduction in CTA funding as ‘wrong-headed’

Updated: September 1, 2013 6:29AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday denounced as “wrong-headed” a reduction in the state subsidy for reduced fares that will cost the CTA $14 million in sorely needed annual funding.

Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool ruled out another round of fare hikes or service cuts. They simply vowed to lobby the Illinois General Assembly to restore the $14 million subsidy during the fall veto session.

“There are mandates from the state as it relates to providing discounted or free rides and yet, the resources — $14 million — was cut,” the mayor told a news conference at a CTA bus garage called to tout a $10 million crackdown on absenteeism.

“I would not call it unfortunate. I would call it wrong-headed….When you have these mandates which are right, the state should not be making cuts in providing the resources…I would hope the state would step up and play a productive role in fulfilling their obligation to the CTA.”

Claypool noted that the $14 million reduction comes on top of “annual additional burdens” from Springfield tied to 2008 legislation governing CTA pension funds and the agency health care trust.

“We have to absorb those blows every year as well,” he said.

Even before the $14 million cut, the state subsidy covered “only a fraction” of the $100 million cost of providing discounted and free rides. Now, it’s “half of what it was” a year ago, he said.

“We’re asking Springfield for recognition. Don’t make our lives worse. We’re not asking you to bail us out or anything like maybe in the past. But please don’t make the problem worse,” the CTA president said.

When Claypool was asked whether a fare hike or service cuts would be needed to absorb the $14 million cut, Emanuel answered for him.

“No,” the mayor said.

Afterwards, Claypool repeated the company line.

Asked how he would make up the $14 million difference, the CTA president said, “We just have to do the best we can…..We work hard every day to cut our costs and bring in revenue outside the system. Higher advertising. More concessions. Reduce our costs to things like supply chain and absenteeism.”

Although Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn have had their differences, the mayor has an ally in Quinn when it comes to restoring the $14 million subsidy.

The governor’s assistant budget director Abdon Pallasch noted that Quinn “supported state funding for senior fares” with a $34 million line item in his state budget. The General Assembly cut it in half — to $17 million, all but $3 million for the CTA.

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