Nothing says Chicago to me more than the sight of a beautiful Ozinga truck. But that doesn’t mean they should have a constitutional guarantee.
Anne and I early voted yesterday.
We voted against safe roads.
There is a constitutional amendment on the Illinois ballot that would place tax revenue in a locked box for road construction.
There is no language in the constitution that places revenue for schools, mental health facilities, after school programs, or pension payments in a locked box.
But for roads?
I’m for safe roads. I am pretty sure that a constitutional amendment is not the best use of the process.
While Illinois’ transportation infrastructure does need investment, the SRA is not a good solution. The Amendment’s text is both sweeping and vague, leaving unclear a) which revenue streams it would lock into transportation uses, and b) what exactly would count as a transportation use. A plain reading of the amendment suggests that it would apply to revenue streams that are not currently used for, or meant to be used for, transportation, diverting money from other crucial programs.
More fundamentally, the SRA misdiagnoses the reason that Illinois under-invests not just in transportation, but in other important services as well. The state simply does not have enough revenue to cover its expenses, and moving money from one expenditure to another without increasing total resources will not solve the problem.
Finally, using a constitutional amendment to make this change, rather than a regular statute, means that any unintended consequences of the SRA will be very difficult to remedy. In fact, no changes would be possible until the next statewide election in two years. For this reason, using the Illinois Constitution as a budgeting tool is unwise, and will aggravate the problems caused by the SRA if it passes.
It is interesting that the Illinois Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, takes a different – if convoluted – position. They are telling the state’s teachers to vote in favor of money for road construction over everything else, including schools.
On the November General election ballot, there is a proposed constitutional amendment(below). The amendment would add Section 11 to Article IX of the Illinois Constitution. The amendment is a limitation on the power of the General Assembly or a unit of local government to use, divert or transfer transportation funds for a purpose other than transportation.
The IEA supports the proposed amendment. We believe that funds dedicated or appropriated to specific agencies and sectors should not be diverted. Education and other essential services should receive their full funding. Ultimately, the Governor and the General Assembly need to pass legislation for sufficient revenue so that education, human services, transportation and others are not competing for too few resources.
So, while Illinois rests near the bottom of state funding for public schools, the road construction industry – with the full support of the leadership of the teachers union – will get a guaranteed revenue source for road construction ahead of everything else.
If you want to vote to amend our constitution, change the prohibition on progressive taxation. Raise revenue.
Even though I love those Ozinga trucks.