Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Free ride program is over

By Jamey Dunn

A program backed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, which was also a popular target of legislators looking to cut the budget, was limited today.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 3788, which ends the free-rides-for-seniors program as it existed under Blagojevich. Under the new law, all seniors will pay half-price to use mass transit. To receive free rides, seniors must have income levels that qualify for state assistance programs, such as a state pharmaceutical aid program. One person making $27,610 or less will still be eligible for a free ride. Members of a two-person household earning less than $36,635 and any households of three or more that earn less than $45,657 will also still be able to ride for free.

“This reform sets the standard we must meet for state programs by reducing costs while also ensuring transportation services for our most dependent seniors,” Quinn said in a written statement. “To start off a week that will highlight important budget reforms, we’re taking important steps to ensure our state transit programs are fiscally responsible but also accessible to the riders who depend on them.”

A proposal to limit the program gained traction last spring but then stalled. Legislators brought the issue up again in the January lame-duck session, and the bill passed with little debate and no organized opposition. “It’s about time,” Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, a Lemont Republican, who has been pushing to roll the program back, said when the bill passed.


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