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Earlier this year, Val Zimnicki, Director of Outreach for Taxpayers United of America (TUA), addressed the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Board of Directors to convey our views opposing the board’s proposed multi-billion-dollar expansion of the city’s obsolete, nineteenth-century rail line.

Now that President Joseph “Uncle Joe” Biden is promoting spending literally trillions of dollars on so-called “infrastructure” projects, consisting mostly of “green” pet projects but still containing billions of dollars to be spent on obsolete technologies, Zimnicki’s statement is especially relevant.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is proposing to extend the Red Line from the existing terminal at 95th/Dan Ryan to 130th Street. This boondoggle is a part of the Red Ahead Program and is estimated to cost $2.3 billion, which is the largest amount ever by the CTA to be spent for a particular project. As a quick side-note, have these projects ever come in on time let alone without waste and overspending? This proposed 5.6-mile extension would include four new stations near 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue, and 130th Street, and each new station would include bus and parking facilities. But where is the money coming from? The CTA’s 2021 budget already has a $375 million deficit.

The CTA claims it can pay for half the project and hope the rest of the money will come from the federal government. Actually, Chicago citizens should prepare for new tax line-items on their real estate taxes to pay for this. That has been the unfortunate normal procedure that citizens of Chicago and Illinois have endured for virtually every over-budget, behind schedule and unnecessary program devised by legislators and bureaucrats. Their theme seems to be, “If we build it, maybe they won’t come, but for sure we will tax them to pay for it.”

The Red Line extension is unnecessary and expensive. How many people will use it? Projections are always optimistic and always seem to fall short. At a staggering $410 million a mile, will it pay for itself? Indeed, in the last 5 years general transit ridership fell by 2.8 million trips while ride-hailing grew by almost 30 million. Chicago is losing population as its citizens are moving to Indiana, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas and other states where the tax burdens are lower.

The CTA will also need to purchase private property to make room for the Red Ahead Program. Families will be dislocated and some will not want to sell. Will the CTA enforce condemnation procedures? Will “just compensation” be enforced on individual property owners. Will renters be properly relocated?

The CTA wants to extend services to a dwindling population while not all the funding is as yet identified.

Will eminent domain take away property rights? What about the inevitable cost overruns and new taxes to pay for them? For these reasons, we oppose the Red Line extension.

Jim Tobin At The Ronald Reagan Breakfast Club

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Rock Island – The Ronald Reagan Breakfast Club yesterday hosted a packed meeting and invited as guest speaker Jim Tobin, economist and president of Taxpayers United of America (TUA). Assisting Tobin was Val Zimnicki, TUA Director of Outreach.

Tobin touched on two massively black holes of taxpayer dollars, the State of Illinois government employee pension system, and the Federal ‘infrastructure’ bill making its way through Congress.

One key detail Tobin shared was on the boondoggle that was the Illinois “high-speed” rail project. “According to experts, the state of Illinois received $1.343 billion from the federal high-speed rail fund, plus $46 million in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) funds to speed up and increase frequencies between Chicago and St. Louis,” said Tobin. “It’s all laid out in the book, The High-Speed Rail Money Sink, by Cato Scholar Randal O’Toole.”

“Before spending high-speed rail funds, this route had four trains a day running at an average speed of 53 mph, and the state splurged taxpayer resources to allow trains to run at 110 mph.”

“Who was the benefiter? Not taxpayers. It was the freight company that owns the tracks and can now run more freight trains in the corridor. Taxpayers haven’t seen any benefit: the route still has only four trains a day running an average of 53 mph. Result: $1.389 billion wasted.”

“What happened to the Chicago to St. Louis route will happen everywhere else. Cooperate welfare to a handful of interests and Biden’s friends at the expense of taxpayers.”

Tobin, at the end of his talk, told taxpayers to call their state senators about the bill, and if they become aware of any upcoming tax increase referenda in the area, to give him a call.

“If you have any Home Rule referenda that need beating let me know. Not a lot goes taxpayers’ way in Illinois, but when it comes to referenda, taxpayers win when they organize and fight these proposals. We are here to help.”

Taxpayer Funded Politicians: Barbara Flynn Currie

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Barbara Flynn Currie, Democrat from the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, was a Madigan lapdog from January 1979 to her taxpayer subsidized retirement at the end of the 2018 legislative year.

“Barbara F. Currie was horrible for taxpayers,” said Jim Tobin, president of TUA. “There was never a year that she acted in the interest of taxpayers, and I have her voting record to prove it.”

“Take for example Barbara’s term during the 95th Illinois General Assembly. She voted for HJRCA42, which would have doubled the income tax for high earners and paved the way for other tax increases.”

“She also voted for HB656, remembered as the great CTA bailout. At time of passing, it was set to all the Chicago Transit Authority raise taxes by $550 million without local referendum. It raised sales taxes from where they were by 200% in the collar counties, and 25% in cook county. It also raised Chicago’s real estate transfer tax by 40%, then the highest for its kind for such a large city.”

“The same year, Barbara voted for SB837, Chicago’ 911 surcharge tax. The tax at the time doubled the tax surcharge for 911 calls placed in the city from $1.25 to $2.50. It was designed at the time to rake in $8 million from taxpayers to fund non-infrastructure projects and vague ‘anti-terror’ projects. Take a guess how all that turned out?”

“As a reward for a career dedicated to stealing from taxpayers, Barbara Flynn Currie receives a General Assembly Retirement System, pension subsidized by taxpayers of an estimated $129,957 a year. This amount will grow at a compounded rate of 3% every year so long as she is eligible for the pension.”

“Barbara Flynn Currie is not the only government pension millionaire on the list,” said Tobin. “There are plenty of pension millionaires, and I am going to put a spotlight on all of them. If taxpayers would like to view the latest annual report on Illinois pensions, there is a link to it on our website.”