ELECTION 2016: Illinois voters to decide on transportation 'lockbox'

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Voters in Illinois can cast ballots this fall on issues that include a protection for transportation revenue.

The question was added to the statewide ballot after the General Assembly acted this spring to ask voters whether to amend the Illinois Constitution to prevent revenues from the state’s road fund from being used for purposes not related to transportation.

Wisconsin voters approved a similar protection in 2014. State lawmakers swiped $1.2 billion from the state’s transportation fund over 10 years.

Illinois now collects a base tax of 19 cents per gallon on gas and 21.5 cents on diesel to support transportation-related funding. Other revenues are generated from vehicle fees.

Diverting revenue from fuel taxes and other driver fees is a common practice in Illinois. Since fiscal year 2003 a reported $6.8 billion in state transportation-related tax revenue has been raided for other purposes.

The diversions contribute to the state’s projected $43 billion transportation funding shortfall over the next decade.

Supporters say passage of the “lockbox” measure would ensure the state’s infrastructure continues to be up to date for the foreseeable future.

“Things like highways, railroads and bridges are quite literally what allow us to move goods and people to conduct commerce and allow for the continued economic advancement of Illinois,” Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said in previous remarks.

The question will appear on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot. If approved, all transportation-related revenues would be directed solely for transportation purposes that include construction and paying debt related to transit projects. The governor’s office would also be prevented from tapping into the funding source for other uses.

The protection would not apply to state and local sales taxes. The taxes are often added to the fuel tax collected at the pump.

Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, highlighted the benefits the measure would have for infrastructure.

“First, it is ridiculous that we would use transportation-related fees for anything other than the improvement of our infrastructure,” Forby stated. He added that the constitutional amendment would fix the issue.

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