Do-nothing budget would hurt Illinois schools, undermine regional transit system, squander opportunity - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Do-nothing budget would hurt Illinois schools, undermine regional transit system, squander opportunity

Metropolitan Planning Council denounces no-growth proposal

(Chicago) … With the Illinois General Assembly poised to cap off a record-breaking overtime session by passing a no-growth budget, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) expresses outrage that nearly a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer money may be squandered on a plan that neither addresses metropolitan Chicago’s transit operating needs nor provides adequate funding for Illinois public schools.

“Unless legislators reject this do-nothing budget, people across the region will feel the pinch of reduced transit service, and Illinois children will continue to struggle to learn in overcrowded classrooms with outdated textbooks,” said MPC President MarySue Barrett. “A no-growth budget means our lawmakers lack the political courage to do what they know is right.”

If the Illinois General Assembly fails to approve a funding source to cover transit operating needs – a modest regional sales tax increase has been proposed as the most sustainable solution – the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) reports it will need to suspend 39 bus routes, increase fares by $.25 to $1.25, lay off 700 workers, defer $57 million of capital spending to operations, and reduce overall service by 8 percent. This scenario is a scaled-back version of the CTA’s original doomsday scenario, but the agency estimates it will still cause some 100,000 weekday riders to abandon the system.

“Driving downtown during rush hour is like trying to sprint in a swimming pool. Imagine what it will be like with an additional 100,000 drivers on the roads,” said Barrett. “Our region is growing. We’re vying for the Olympics with world-class cities like Madrid , Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro . And we’re competing economically with our counterparts nationwide. At a time when we should be growing our transit system, it’s unacceptable that we’re considering shrinking it.”

The majority of Illinois voters have reacted favorably to a proposed income tax increase that would provide adequate funding for programs proven to improve school performance. Yet a no-growth budget scenario would earmark just enough to allow the state’s public schools to limp to next year, without implementing improvements or significantly addressing shortfalls like overcrowded classrooms and crumbling school buildings.

“The research has been done to show what Illinois schools need to prepare our children for the future. A progressive solution is on the table,” said Barrett. “We urge the governor and state lawmakers to reject a budget that leaves Illinois schools behind.”

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