Nov. ballot item ensures road funds no longer diverted

Illinois officials have been pulling money out of the state’s road tax revenue fund to pay for other state budget needs for quite some time.

However, voters now have the chance to put a stop to this practice through the November ballot.

Coined the “Lockbox Amendment,” the ballot measure establishes rigid rules mandating that money generated by transportation taxes will be used solely for transportation-related purposes, such as construction projects or paying outstanding debt on transit projects.

Taxes collected on Illinois roads – mostly through tolls, license fees and gas taxes – are supposed to be used only for road repairs, but those transportation-related funds have been used for other purposes.

In fact, the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, consisting of business groups and unions, estimates that since fiscal year 2003, more than $6.8 billion earmarked for transportation projects actually was spent elsewhere.

State Rep. Thomas Bennett, R-Gibson City, a member of the House Transportation, Regulations and Roads Committee, said such moves have compounded problems.

“Illinois has had extreme financial difficulty for the last couple of years, and we haven’t had a budget,” he said. “Along with that, our roads, bridges, etc., are continuing to suffer. There have been times where legislators tried to balance part of the budget by tapping into other funds, but all that did was create other problems.”

Bennett said the Lockbox Amendment’s time has come after a lack of fiscal discipline.

“The funds that go into that account are only to be used for those things it’s been designated for,” Bennett said. “We have to find ways to protect our roads. We have hot summers, cold winters, wind, snow, ice, all of these things that can wreak havoc on our roads. We have to make a point and reform all of this.”

Bennett said he has received positive feedback from constituents who have expressed support for the Lockbox Amendment.

“We, of course, receive calls about the roads and projects, but we have received several calls about this amendment, and they’ve all been unanimously in support of it,” he said.

–Illinois News Network

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