Amendment to protect transportation funding in Illinois lands on ballot

By Ryne Turke on November 1, 2016 at 6:10am

Illinois voters have the final say when it comes to how transportation funding can be used in the state.

Voters will find a proposed amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution on the ballot when they head to the polls on November 8th.

The amendment would put into law that money derived from services, taxes and fees in the transportation sector must be safeguarded from being spent on other purposes.

Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer explains.

“Basically the argument was that the General Assembly has swept a lot of road funds. Our road funds are raised from a 19 cents a gallon on gas or 21.5 cents a gallon on diesel fuel. The state of Illinois has told people that will go towards repairing roads. In the past, that money has been swept and used for other purposes. This amendment is saying that money in the road fund would no longer be able to be swept for other purposes,” says Davidsmeyer.

Davidsmeyer says the Illinois Road Fund is currently in a tough spot. In a conversation with the Illinois Secretary of Transportation, Davidsmeyer learned only one expansion project is taking place in the state. All other projects in Illinois are attempts to maintain the roads.

“Just realistically looking down the line, a lot of bridges are going to be coming due in the near future. I know Missouri is having issues maintaining their roads. At the end of the day, if the dollars aren’t there then we can’t fix it,” says Davidsmeyer.

“The other concern you might run into is matching federal dollars. On the majority of state projects, the federal government covers around 80 percent and the state is required to have a 20 percent match. If the state of Illinois doesn’t have that 20 percent then whatever money we can’t match will go to another state. Illinois is already a donor state, so it is tough to lose federal funds as well.”

Davidsmeyer says the proposed amendment has received mixed reviews in Congress.

“I have people that say if this money is off limits then what happens in an emergency… and then people on the other side that say we told the people of Illinois we are going to use these user fees to fix the roads they use. There is two sides to every argument. Historically you can look back and say it is one of the larger funds that Illinois has, so it is an easy target when it comes to the budget.”

In order to pass, the amendment needs 60 percent support from those voting on the question, or a majority of those casting in the election.