The Chicago Transit Authority’s proposed $1.3 billion 2010 budget received the endorsement of a local government finance watchdog group for tackling its revenue shortfall with cuts and fare increases.

While painful to both riders and CTA workers, the budget tackles a revenue crisis directly while avoiding quick fixes that just delay the inevitable for another year, according to a report from the Civic Federation of Chicago that was issued last week.

The authority expects its key revenue sources — sales taxes, state matching funds, and a portion of Chicago’s tax on real estate transactions — will fall $213 million below fiscal 2009 revenue collections, contributing to an estimated $301 million deficit.

The CTA will cut spending, eliminate more than 1,000 positions, impose unpaid furlough days, freeze non-union pay, and raise fares between 25 cents and 75 cents.

“In the Civic Federation’s view, the CTA’s proposed budget strikes an appropriate balance between service reductions and fare increases to minimize the hardship it imposes on Chicago residents,” federation president Laurence Msall said in a statement.

The group did raise concerns over the authority’s future fiscal viability, calling for a change in its free ride program for seniors that costs $60 million annually. The federation believes the free rides should be restricted to low-income seniors.

The group also is worried over the CTA’s continued use of capital funds since 2006 to fund operations. The transit agency has $7 billion in unfunded capital needs.

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