Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A little up his sleeve

Rendell rode to the rescue of SEPTA by revealing some kind of "federal windfall" that will keep the transit system solvent until 2007!
Rendell was expected this week to transfer $68 million in highway money to float struggling transit agencies. Of that, SEPTA expected $42.5 million to rescue riders from a 20 percent service cut and a fare hike of 25 percent threatened to begin Sunday.

Rendell instead surprised everyone with a transfer of $412 million to stabilize transit agencies until 2007.
That is a pretty big development to have arrived on the heels of so much discussion of stop-gap measures. No mention was made of these funds in Rendell's recent budget, although they were apparently released to him on Feb. 4 -- as a result, Republican lawmakers appear furious. Perhaps as a bone to them, Rendell promised some oversight:
By executive order, Rendell created a nine-person "Transportation Funding and Reform Commission" to audit how SEPTA runs and suggest new means for long-term funding.
He also put SEPTA employees on notice that they'd best not take anything for granted when the next round of contract negotiations comes around:
Rendell warned SEPTA's largest union, whose contract expires in two weeks, that a city transit strike on the heels of such largesse would not bode well for permanent funding relief from state lawmakers.
All very interesting. Good news, but strange maneouvers....


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