With no action apparent in Harrisburg to pump needed money into SEPTA, the transit agency's general manager, Faye Moore, announced today that she was preparing Jan. 1 layoff notices for 1,400 employees.
Moore has said that if state aid is not received to close a $62 million budget gap, SEPTA would be forced to fire workers from its 9,000 person staff, end weekend service and raise fares.
"As people play chicken and poker in Harrisburg, we are continuing to play with people's lives," Moore said in an interview in King of Prussia. She appeared alongside legislators in a forum dedicated to the state shortage of highway, bridge and transit funding.
Well, Fearless Leader would know about "playing chicken" as that's what SEPTA's strategy has been when dealing with Harrisburg over the past couple of years...
Lawmakers are to return to Harrisburg Monday for a lame-duck session, but the Republican leadership does not have the issue of transit funding on its agenda.
"Honestly, it is not," Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Samuel H. Smith (R., Jefferson). "We're not ignorant about SEPTA. There is a feeling ... that SEPTA creates these budgets to create a crisis."
That's partially true. Then again, questionable management decisions certainly don't help SEPTA's cause, either. Especially the decision to make threats to severely cut service if Harrisburg doesn't cough up more funding, a mantra that has alienated SEPTA and it's counterpart in Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which is also facing similar cuts and fare hikes if Harrisburg doesn't show them the money...
In a speech last month, Gov. Rendell pledged to lead the fight for transit funding after the election. He also made it clear that he would not raise transit spending without a tax increase. He could not be reached immediately for comment today. Rendell has told some lawmakers that he expects to unveil his lame duck session priorities on Monday or Tuesday. InquirerHow much are you willing to bet that transit funding may not be one of those priorities?
Meanwhile, KYW NewsRadio recieved these comments from SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information Richard Maloney:
“We are required by law and by labor agreements, that if we have to implement these actions, to give notice approximately 60 days in advance. So the wheels of bureaucracy are in motion, but we still remain hopeful that Harrisburg will come through and we won’t have to put this into effect.”
Maloney says the only way to realize savings with service cuts is to cut jobs:
“The tragic part is that to save 62 million dollars, when most of our costs are labor costs, we would have to cut service. And the people who are running that service, some of them would have to lose their jobs.”
The real tragic part is that - as far as we know - neither Fearless Leader nor most of the Senior Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market will be among those getting pinkslipped.
But, Maloney says, if layoffs happen the number of jobs cut may be less than 1,400:
“Fourteen hundred is the number that was determined by the size of the cubacks in service by the elimination of weekend and evening. We are still studying the number that would be affected by that, and we don’t have a number yet.”
Somehow, I think SEPTA knows damned well what they're going to cut. It's just a gut feeling...
SEPTA wants a new permanent source of funding. But that kind of funding for mass transit would likely have to be coupled with a gasoline tax increase to pay for highway projects.
And just this week, Governor Rendell said that high gas prices make that unlikely.
But Rendell believes temporary funding, less than what SEPTA says it needs, is possible.
Of course, Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) has other priorities, such as his Iggles Post-Game Live appearances...