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Editorial: Metra just another victim of Springfield bumbling

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// ]]>Thursday was Metra’s turn — and every Metra rider’s turn — to get a kick in the head from our governor and Legislature’s failure to do their most basic job and pass a state budget.

Metra on Thursday unveiled its proposed 2016 budget, but no one knows if the state, which has no spending plan, will fork over $22 million in operating funds it is supposed to give Metra.

And if Metra doesn’t get the money?

“That will almost certainly require us to cut trains,” Metra Chairman Marty Oberman told the Sun-Times Editorial Board.


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While we’re at it, have you visited the Illinois State Museum in Springfield or its branches lately? Well, not since Oct. 1, when they closed. Those empty offices were abandoned by scholars and other top pros who departed because the museum’s finances are so uncertain — again because of the state budget stalemate.

This all comes on the heels of a steady drumbeat of pain being inflicted across the state, at every level of government, because of the impasse. Every day that goes by without a resolution is another day of tumbling down the mineshaft in Illinois.

• On Tuesday, we wrote about how the governor is shooting his pro-business bona fides in the foot by failing to fund Choose Chicago. The bureau is cutting staff by 26 percent, closing foreign offices and even shutting down its visitor center in the Chicago Cultural Center.

• On Wednesday, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, meeting with the Editorial Board, said the state is tying the county in knots by not turning over $77 million in earmarked motor fuel taxes and other money. “It’s not just us, it is every local government,” Preckwinkle said.

• Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is counting on Springfield giving Chicago 15 more years to get up to 90 percent funding for its police and fire pensions. If that doesn’t happen, city taxpayers already facing a $588 million property tax increase will be asked for more. In addition, Emanuel needs Springfield to OK a casino and an increase in the property tax homestead exemption.

• The Chicago Public Schools need Springfield to help plug a budget hole of nearly $500 million with new money, pension reform, or some of both. But nothing has happened on that front, either.

• Without money promised by the state, social service agencies are slashing their budgets, laying off workers and turning away new clients.

The longer the state budget stalemate lasts, the more Chicago and Illinois tourism will suffer, students will be hurt, commuters will be hit up for higher fares, train service will be reduced, state museums will close their doors, services for the elderly, poor and disabled will be diminished, and homeowners will be burdened with higher property taxes.

At Metra, which ironically has its most professional leadership in memory with 10-year budget plans and new efficiencies, Oberman says Springfield dysfunction is making it difficult to run the rail system properly.

“It throws off the ability to function” he said, “It’s very difficult to manage … with all this uncertainty.”

Springfield owes everyone some certainty. The only thing we are certain about now is that the situation is unforgivable.
Follow the Editorial Board on Twitter: Follow @csteditorials

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