The fight over transit money between Chicago and its suburbs

A fight over funding is brewing between the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Pace, and Metra about how to divvy up sales tax revenues and discretionary money:

Twelve votes are needed to approve budgets, yet five out of the 16 directors on the board are Chicagoans who have the CTA’s back, conventional wisdom says.

And this isn’t just an RTA fight. It also involves the region’s political heavyweights like Mayor Rahm Emanuel and [DuPage County Board Chairman Dan] Cronin, who appoint RTA directors to their $25,000-a-year positions.

Cronin says he recognizes [CTA President Forrest] Claypool and Emanuel didn’t create the problem. But he describes the standoff as “bullying.”

“The money is collected from all the taxpayers in the region, the majority of whom reside in the suburbs. Why should we subsidize the CTA more than we already are?” he asked. “They seem to care little for their neighbors in the suburbs.”

This is tied up with two larger issues:

1. The Chicago area is infamous for its many governmental bodies. This is another example of the broader issues associated with metropolitanization: multiple transit agencies are fighting for revenues and surplus funds that are controlled by an umbrella organization. All three agencies could really use the money so how is it to be decided outside of what will end up being a very politicized process?

2. In the larger public discussion about taxes, a growing theme is illustrated here: why should funds/taxes raised in one area be spent in another area? This is what Cronin is arguing: the revenues raised from relatively wealthy DuPage County (#57 in the country according to 2011 figures) are being used to fund mismanaged services in the nearby big city that many DuPage residents and shoppers do not use on a regular basis. This, too, is tied to metropolitanization: how can communities, agencies, and governments across a region come together to address common problems if everyone is only looking out for their self-interests?

2 thoughts on “The fight over transit money between Chicago and its suburbs

  1. Pingback: Suburban worries that Metra troubles may end up giving Chicago more influence | Legally Sociable

  2. Pingback: Eight (unlikely and unpopular) policy options for addressing housing issues | Legally Sociable

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