By Jon Hilkevitch
12:08 PM CST, November 15, 2012
CTA officials abruptly postponed the scheduled noon release of the transit agency's 2013 budget today, citing progress in negotiations with its unions on possible savings of millions of dollars.
CTA president Forrest Claypool was participating in contract talks that intensified Wednesday and have continued into today, said CTA spokesman Brian Steele.
Claypool had warned that fare increases and service cuts would be inevitable this past summer if the CTA's bus driver and rail operator unions did not give in to his call for contract reforms.
The unions refused to negotiate away labor rules that have been in place for decades.
Claypool said he subsequently found "one-time savings" to fill the budget hole and prevent the fare hikes and service cutts this year. But he cautioned that such savings would not be available in 2013 to bail out the agency.
The last CTA fare hike was in 2009, when base fares increased 25 cents to 50 cents, to $2 on buses and $2.25 on trains.
The CTA faced a $277 million deficit in its 2012 operating budget. The agency had planned to eliminate the red ink through internal belt-tightening and reductions in management and administrative staff, as well as work rule changes for unionized employees that were projected to save the transit agency $80 million this year and $160 million in 2013.
But the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents the majority of CTA workers, has declined to accept the changes.
Thursday's developments do not necessarily represent a break-through, Steele said.
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