The proposed budget cuts in state subsidies to Amtrak and local bus and rail service in Illinois total more than $200 million. But groups representing the industry, riders, and employees say that's a bad choice. For example, said Al Grosboll at a Capitol news conference, what happens if Western Illinois University loses three or four hundred students (because of Amtrak cuts involving Macomb)? They're already fighting to maintain their enrollment, and the same same could be said of several of the other universities in the state. Grosboll is co-legislative director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
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When pressed for examples of what other areas could be cut, or what sources of revenue could be tapped or expanded, Dan Johnson, a lobbyist for the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, looked to the past: the decision not to extend the five percent personal income tax rate. We probably all agree (that) it's not a good deal to implement the biggest tax cut in state history on the backs of our transit systems, Johnson said. Johnson and Grosboll also pointed to potential ridership gains, ignoring the fact that the systems are currently far from self-sufficient. They're also promoting a campaign of clicks through a new web site: www.growillinoistransit.org