For the second year in a row, a long-standing city-suburban split among members of the Regional Transportation Authority board has put the agency in apparent violation of state law.
The RTA was obligated by statute to meet a Sept. 15 deadline to issue 2014 budget goals for the CTA, Metra and Pace, but board members Tuesday failed to approve the measure, along with another ordinance amending the agencies' current budgets.
Failure to set the budget goals, or "marks" as they are known, is not expected to hamper transit operations or services.
RTA Chairman John Gates Jr. said he conducted negotiations with transit agency leaders over the weekend and Monday night in the hope of lifting stumbling blocks, and that he believed a consensus on a plan had been reached.
"There may not be everything that everybody wants (in the proposal)," Gates said. "But we have a legal obligation to set the marks."
The transit agencies said they will continue their budget-making processes so the documents can be ready in October in advance of public hearings.
Spokesmen for the CTA, Metra and Pace said Tuesday that negotiations would continue toward resolving the funding dispute, which centers around carving up the amount of state funding allocated to each agency in 2014 and following years.
There are no apparent legal repercussions to missing the deadline. The RTA's general counsel, Nadine Lacombe, said it "puts the taxpayers and service boards at risk," although how was unclear.
Critics of the RTA have seized on the ongoing dissension to argue that the agency is ineffective.
The RTA board split along partisan lines, with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointees voting against the budget measures and suburban members seeking to approve them.
Although suburban members outnumber city appointees, the measures needed a "supermajority," or 12 of the RTA's 16-member board.
The same city-suburb split occurred at the RTA's last meeting in August on similar measures. The Chicago members vote as a bloc against any measure they believe is detrimental to the CTA or cuts the agency's state funding.
When it became clear that the budget measures would not pass, RTA board member Dwight Magalis of Lake County unveiled a resolution calling on the CTA to repay $56 million awarded by the RTA in 2009.
The CTA needed the cash to cover a revenue shortfall that resulted from the 2008 economic collapse, and the RTA lent the agency the money, Magalis said.
Magalis, visibly irate at the Chicago board members' stand on the budget measures, said it was time for the CTA to pay up.
As was the case with the budget measures, the Chicago members voted no, but the resolution passed.
The CTA, however, maintains that the $56 million was not a loan and that the money was allocated to the agency in accord with an RTA ordinance in effect at the time to cover tax shortfalls.
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