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Bassi cool to Senate's free-ride ideas
By Tim Magaw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/27/2010 12:03 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - A suburban lawmaker who pushed legislation to eliminate the controversial free rides for seniors program said she isn't interested in supporting changes the Senate made.

State Rep. Suzie Bassi, a Palatine Republican, said the Senate version that would limit free public transit rides for single seniors making more than $41,515 wouldn't save enough money over the long term.

"It's not going to do what it needs to do, on top of which it's an administrative nightmare to put it together," said Bassi, who just a few days ago said she wasn't sure whether she'd support the Senate version.

Under Bassi's proposal, the free-ride program would follow financial guidelines in the state's Circuit Breaker program that gives prescription and tax breaks to some seniors.

Under that plan, a person 65 or older with annual income of less than $27,610 would still qualify for free rides. For a household of two, the cutoff would be $34,635 in annual income. Those making more would still ride half price, a discount required under federal law.

Bassi said she is "cautiously optimistic" the Senate would approve her version of the legislation when lawmakers return to Springfield in the fall session in November.

The senior free rides program was former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brainchild as a way to justify a suburban sales tax increase to bail out regional mass transit. The program has been often criticized for allowing even the wealthiest seniors to use Chicago area buses and trains for free.