Sunday's Inquirer offered a reminder that the public hearings for the FY 2005 Operating Budget begin today (the hearing at Media Courthouse is taking place as I post this). It also re-hashed many of the talking points offered by Don Pasquale and Fearless Leader this past Monday at an organizational meeting of the Save Transit coalition of various corporate execs and other assorted big shots.
SEPTA and other transit agencies statewide face very uncertain prospects in Harrisburg. Only the Republican-dominated state legislature can enact a tax increase of some kind for transit. Gov. Rendell and state legislators say that is unlikely before the fall elections.
In November, half of the seats in the state Senate and the entire House are on the ballot.
"Nobody is going to touch that now until after the election cycle," said State Rep. Rick Geist (R., Blair), chairman of the House Transportation Committee. "It is a very, very high-stakes poker game."
To gather everyone who cares about transit at that poker table, SEPTA last Monday launched its Save Transit coalition.
Speaking to 50 community and business leaders at a breakfast at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale "Pat" Deon asked for them to speak out at coming hearings.
"We need all your help. We needed it yesterday," Deon said.
Deon has been SEPTA's board chairman for six years. During that time, the agency has reduced its payroll from 12,000 to about 9,000 employees, raised its share of business done with female and minority-owned businesses, and expanded bus service, he said. But after years of shaving expenses at SEPTA amid flat state funding, major new state grants are required to ensure the survival of transit for students, seniors and workers, he added.
"We have nothing without public transit, I truly believe that," Deon said. Inquirer
Philadelphia doesn't exactly have a heck of a lot going for it to begin with, but that's for another rant...