More than 70 percent of respondents said they disapprove of the current system, compared to 17 percent who favor Illinois’ redistricting process. When asked if they approved of the state’s system of ending a stalemate over an agreement on a redistricting plan by pulling a party’s name out of a hat, more than 70 percent of those polled expressed varying degrees of disapproval.
SURVEY SAYS: CAMPAIGN REFORMS NEEDED
Survey respondents favored updating the state’s campaign finance laws, with an overwhelming number of respondents supporting contribution limits for both “in-kind” donations, including services and goods, and money. Over 70 percent of respondents either “favored” or “strongly favored” limits.
Despite the public’s interest in seeing stronger campaign finance reforms adopted in Illinois, Democrat legislative leaders have opposed key provisions of the reforms and it is unknown whether lawmakers will be given the chance to vote on meaningful campaign finance reform before the Veto Session concludes next week.
BUDGET FIX NOT LIKELY RIGHT NOW
It is unlikely lawmakers will take steps to address the state’s serious budget deficit, despite evidence that Illinois’ financial condition will continue to deteriorate in the coming months.
Another statewide poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute shows that Illinois voters believe the state should be making big budget cuts; however, many couldn’t point to specific areas to be reduced.
A small percent, less than 10 percent, believed a revenue increase will address Illinois’ budget problems, with approximately 65.5 percent of respondents voicing opposition to an income tax increase. Survey results show that the voters largely oppose increasing or expanding the state sales tax, though 27.3 percent thinks that a combination of cuts to the budget and tax increases will be necessary to bring Illinois out of the red.
Despite overwhelming opposition to tax hikes, respondents were largely unable to identify areas of state waste and inefficiency that they thought could be axed.
STUDY SHOWS FREE RIDE PROGRAM IS COSTLY
Budget woes were also the focus of a cost study released this week by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which showed that Illinois’ controversial Seniors Ride Free program is financially unsustainable.
The program has drawn scrutiny since it was introduced by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2008. Critics said the program was too expensive, and income limits should be placed on participants; however, senior citizens enjoy the program, and proponents say that increasing senior citizens mobility encourages them to travel and spend money at their destinations.
The study shows that after the program was established, enrollment in the free ride program increased to 400,000 seniors—up from 142,000 seniors who had been enrolled in the Reduced Fair Card program that allowed them to ride for 50 percent off.
Substantial increases in senior citizens ridership have placed a considerable burden on the RTA’s operating budget, which is further exacerbated by decreased revenue resulting from the national recession. As a result, Metra, Pace and CTA are all proposing fair hikes and serious service reductions because of a huge budget shortfall of more than $240 million.
The free rides program has been estimated to cost $49 million annually. The RTA said that the revenue losses will only increase over time—to more than $1 billion for Pace, Metra and the CTA by 2030—if changes aren’t made.
In response, the RTA is encouraging lawmakers to limit the benefit, supporting free rides only for low-income senior citizens who make less than $22,000 a year. All other senior citizens would continue to ride for half-price, which is required by federal law.
Legislation has been introduced in the House and the Senate to scale back the program, though it is uncertain whether the General Assembly will advance either measure at this time.
Kudos to the thousands of dedicated and extremely hardworking volunteers and the countless businesses in central Illinois who helped build a home in Philo in one week, as part of the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project in August.
That project will be featured October 25 on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition at 7:00 p.m. on ABC. Be sure to watch, and see your family, friends and neighbors working together to help the Montgomery Family!