A pamphlet is showing up in mailboxes this week about a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would prohibit money collected for transportation infrastructure from being used for any other purpose. Supporters of the amendment are borrowing one of Al Gore’s more famous catchphrases by selling the proposal as a “transportation lockbox.” But opponents worry the measure could have unintended consequences on the state’s budget.
Illinois voters will have the final say on the proposed amendment Nov. 8. Here’s more information on both sides of the debate over the transportation lockbox.
WHAT: An amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would prohibit money collected for transportation infrastructure from being used for any other purpose. It’s being called the “transportation lockbox,” or the “safe roads amendment” by supporters.
"For years, Illinois has underinvested in its roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. That’s put public safety at risk and cost us thousands of jobs. It’s all because state government refuses to invest responsibly.
"Half of Illinois’ roads and 4,200 of our bridges are in poor condition. … Our state of disrepair isn’t because we lack money. It’s because the politicians have used the Road Fund as a slush fund. Over the last decade, $6.8 billion has been swept out of the Road Fund.
"Aging infrastructure isn’t just unsafe. It hurts our economy, makes it more difficult to keep and grow jobs and is costing you money. Raiding transportation funding has cost Illinois nearly 5,000 jobs over the last decade and has increased the average motorist’s costs by $441 every year due to congestion and extra vehicle repairs."
"The first item on the ballot this fall is an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that could establish a very dangerous precedent. … The proposed “lockbox” Amendment we'll be voting on would extend protections to transportation funding that no other spending priority receives. … Without a doubt, there should be strong protections for investment in our road, bridges, ports, and rails.
"But experience has demonstrated that unexpected events can have drastic impacts on our state budget. A major natural disaster or economic turmoil can blow huge holes in a budget, even in states in healthy financial condition -- which Illinois is decidedly not.
"This amendment would severely curtail the ability of the state to react to these types of events. … Other states that have passed transportation funding lockboxes, such as Maryland, have release valves for emergencies. …The proposed Illinois amendment is missing a safety valve."
PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE 1970 ILLINOIS CONSTITUTION
Explanation of Amendment: The proposed amendment adds a new section to the Revenue Article of the Illinois Constitution. The proposed amendment provides that no moneys derived from taxes, fees, excises, or license taxes, relating to registration, titles, operation, or use of vehicles or public highways, roads, streets, bridges, mass transit, intercity passenger rail, ports, or airports, or motor fuels, including bond proceeds, shall be expended for other than costs of administering laws related to vehicles and transportation, costs for construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair, and betterment of public highways, roads, streets, bridges, mass transit, intercity passenger rail, ports, airports, or other forms of transportation, and other statutory highway purposes, including the State or local share to match federal aid highway funds, You are asked to decide whether the proposed amendment should become part of the Illinois Constitution.
For the proposed addition of Section 11 to Article IX of the Illinois Constitution, you will be asked to vote 'Yes' or 'No'.