Blagojevich Buying Votes of Illinois Senior Citizens

January 10, 2008

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, architect of one of the worst state tax reform proposals in recent history early last year, is at again. This time he is basically holding hostage the Chicago mass transit system’s general funding source so that he can try to buy some more senior citizens’ votes. A truly sad story showing one downside of democratic rule courtesy of the Chicago Tribune:

State lawmakers today passed a bill to fund Chicago-area mass transit with a sales tax increase, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he wouldn’t go along until lawmakers agreed to provide free bus and train rides for the state’s senior citizens.

The governor’s unusual move capped a frenetic 24-hour round of legislative negotiating that raised hopes of an agreement to end the monthslong funding fight and avert service cuts and fare hikes scheduled for Jan. 20. But the governor’s decision will send the legislation back for further consideration in the House and Senate.

“We can’t say that all’s well that ends well, because this is not over yet,” said Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston).

Blagojevich had repeatedly vowed to veto the tax-hike plan over the last year but began to soften his opposition in recent weeks as it appeared lawmakers would send it to him. He said he saw the free rides as a way to ease the sting for people on fixed incomes.

The governor’s justification makes little sense. Why should only senior citizens be spared the hardship of the sales tax increase? There are many poor residents of the Chicago area who use public transit to get to work who will be hit much harder than many of the senior citizens living in the area.

Furthermore, even if senior citizens were somehow more worthy of getting a break from the tax increase than others, what about the senior citizens who do not use public transit? They are going to be hit with a tax increase but will not be “eased” by the governor’s proposal. Actually, the sales tax increase is designed to increase the funding for the transit system. Therefore, if anything, those who use the transit system should be the ones that have to pay higher taxes. The governor is proposing the exact opposite.

Then again, maybe I should defer to the transit expert as Governor Rod would be one to understand how expensive the daily commute to work can be.

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