SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — An Illinois advocacy group wants to determine the impact of a state transportation lockbox amendment more than a year after voters approved the measure.
Nearly 80 percent of voters in 2016 approved the Safe Roads Amendment, which committed gasoline tax money and related fees to transportation-related purposes, the State Journal-Register reported .
The Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association is reviewing state budget proposals to see how transportation revenue is being used, said Mike Sturino, president and CEO of the association.
“There have been reports of units of government that have been tempted to divert transportation revenues to non-transportation purposes,” Sturino said. “We’ve reminded them of the constitutional amendment and that’s generally worked.”
The association is part of a group of construction and engineering organizations that filed a lawsuit earlier this month against Cook County, alleging the county violated the amendment by diverting $250 million in transportation taxes to other expenses.
The lawsuit is likely just the first of many because the amendment language isn’t very clear, said Laurence Msall, president of the government watchdog the Civic Federation.
The amendment’s loose language would allow the state Department of Transportation to pay employee salaries with those taxes and fees and still meet requirements, instead of using the money on road and bridge projects, Sturino said.
The courts will have to determine how broadly the amendment can be interpreted, Msall said.
But the amendment hasn’t been an obstacle for lawmakers creating state budgets, said Democratic state Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago, a principal House budget negotiator. He said the main challenge will be ensuring expenses qualify as transportation-related costs in order to ensure compliance.
Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com