The Morrison Memo: October 21, 2014

Metra Chief Calls for 68% Fare Hike over 10-Year Period

On October 9, Metra Chairman Martin Oberman presented a proposal to the Metra Board for a 68% fare hike to be phased in over the next ten years. Funds from the fare hike, according to Oberman, would cover a variety of fiscal challenges, including the replacement of much of the system’s rolling

stock. The plan calls for:

  • Purchasing 52 new locomotives
  • Rebuilding 85 locomotives 
  • Purchasing 367 new passenger cars 
  • Rehabilitating 455 passenger cars 

The proposed fare hike would create financial backing to borrow $400 million in debt, which would be an essential element of an overall $2.4 billion financing plan. More than half of the required funds, $1.3 billion, would come from the State of Illinois. I worry that further tax and fee hikes could be required to cover the State side of this program. The Board approved the fare hike package by a vote of 10-1.

I am aware of Metra’s equipment needs, but am deeply concerned with the level of the proposed fare hike. I believe most riders who rely on Metra for their daily travel to and from work would find the kind of increases Metra is proposing to be excessive and unaffordable. When I see Illinois spending hundreds of millions on higher speed rail that makes minimal improvements to travel times between Chicago and St. Louis, I must wonder if that money could be better-spent on Metra’s improvement needs so that the riders’ impact could be minimized.

Crain’s Chicago Business has more information on the fare hike request.

Legislators to Host Senate Bill 16 Impact Forum

Tonight I will partner with Senator Matt Murphy and Representative David Harris for a public forum on Senate Bill 16, a proposal that rewrites Illinois’ school funding formula and strips General State Aid (GSA) away from most suburban school districts.

The forum will take place from 6:30-8:30 PM at Metropolis Performing Arts Center, 111 W. Campbell Street in Arlington Heights. Local school superintendents and school administrators will join us to talk about how SB16 will specifically affect their district budgets and operations.

SB16 passed in the Illinois Senate in May and is now pending in the House of Representatives. As written, this bill diverts millions in General State Aid away from local schools and channels it toward Chicago and many downstate schools. It’s an unfair redistribution of funds with every one of my school districts losing large amounts of funding. The school districts located within the boundaries of the 54th legislative House district would lose the following amounts of GSA if SB16 is passed (estimates provided by Illinois State Board of Education):

  • Community Consolidated School District 15: $11,125,664 loss per year
  • Township High School District 211: $7,955,584 loss per year
  • Barrington School District 220: $5,391,021 loss per year
  • Community Consolidated School District 59: $5,923,650 loss per year
  • Township High School District 214: $7,471,089 loss per year
  • Arlington Heights School District 25: $3,286,613 loss per year

Those who attend the forum will be given the opportunity to submit questions or concerns to panel participants.

In response to the revival of SB16, I have joined several of my House colleagues in sponsoring a House Resolution in opposition to the bill. You may read the text of HR1276 here, and you may access the on-line petition here.

For additional information about the October 21 event, please contact my Palatine office at (847) 202-6584.