CTA officials still won’t say if the agency’s 2012 budget contains fare hikes, service cuts or both. But they are making it clear that the budgeting process has not been an easy one.

CTA President Forrest Claypool says hard choices are being made, not the least of which is whether the state can be trusted to deliver what it owes.

“You really have to decide if the state is going to catch up or whether you believe it’s in a permanent state of arrears,” he said. “If we’re in a permanent state of arrears, that’s a significant impact on the budget for balancing purposes.”

Asked if that would mean a “doomsday” budget, Claypool replied, “It’s a bad one.”

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Claypool said the best budgetmakers can do is make “calculated decisions.”

He said that the state of Illinois has run consistently six months behind in its subsidy payments. Earlier this month, the amount owed to CTA alone stood at $242.7 million.

The RTA has projected a 4.2 percent increase in sales tax revenues in the coming year. Claypool said budget makers also have to decide if the threat of a double-dip recession is real, and if sales tax estimates are overly optimistic.

CTA continues to find places to make internal cuts. The recent ‘L’ station clean-up program announced by Claypool and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will cost $25 million. Claypool said the agency had already identified $18 million in savings that would be used to finance the one-year program.

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