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Wishful Thinking? RTA Anticipates Funding Increases From Illinois State Budget

(CBS) -- The Regional Transportation Authority is making a leap of faith by projecting a small increase in state funding for the CTA, Metra and Pace in the coming year.

The figures released Thursday, known as "marks," are significant because they are the numbers upon which each agency's budget is built.

The figures, released Thursday, would increase public funding at the CTA by $33.3 million in the coming year.  Metra's public financing would increase by $12.1 million and Pace suburban bus service would receive a $4.2 million increase. Paratransit service, also operated by Pace, would see a $1.8 million increase in funding.

They're a leap because they are based on the budget Gov. Bruce Rauner has declared unconstitutional and as much as $4 billion out of balance. Should the legislature and the governor ultimately give the RTA less, RTA director and finance committee chair Dwight Magalis says he'll ask lawmakers for a different form of relief.

"They ought to make it at least an option for any agency -- I don't care if it's the RTA, a school board or anyone else -- that if we're going to eliminate the funding for it it's now an option whether or not you want to continue to fund it," he says.

Magalis said that if adjustments are necessary, he would specifically target free or reduced fare riding programs implemented under the administration of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden says she has already advised the CTA, Metra and Pace each to have an alternative ready.

Redden and her top deputy, Bea Reyna-Hickey, both said there is plenty of room to make changes.  The agencies do not need to have a preliminary budget to the RTA for another month, and do not need to forward a final budget document until Nov. 15. Even then, the RTA board has until Dec. 15 to approve budgets for the coming year.

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