I voted against safe roads.

cng-truck

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.

Neither does the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability.

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.

Crazy.

If you want to vote to amend our constitution, change the prohibition on progressive taxation. Raise revenue.

Even though I love those Ozinga trucks.

7 thoughts on “I voted against safe roads.

  1. Vote aginst that thing. IDOT has not managed well at all. Its strange it is the only agency the Illinois Chamber likes. It is a brain dead department. It has 20 projects downstate that would cost 10 billion. Those could be reimagined as shared 4s that Missouri is building and accomplish the same thing for less than a quarter of the cost.

  2. I think that your reasoning is sound and your choice is one that I considered, however Elaine Nekritz (my state rep) is one of the 4 state legislators who voted against this amendment and I could not bring myself to vote the same way that she did. Also, we should amend the state constitution to allow progressive taxation along with new revenue streams dedicated for and restricted to education and pension funding. The city of Chicago, I believe, used to have a tax that was restricted to pension funding but ended that some time ago to their regret.

  3. Agree. The Center for Tax & Budget Accountability always comes up with sound reasoning. Aside from that, when roads ARE fixed, it seems to be (purposely?–nah, not in Cook County or anywhere else in ILL-Annoy) almost temporary. For example, line widening recently occurred in the suburbs, very recent construction. Already, these streets are crumbling (due to big trucks?).
    In an unrelated matter, not too very long ago, I believe (&, please, correct me if I’m wrong) that Daley or the state had some “deals” w/one particular construction company, whereby the same highways were being “fixed”…over & over again leading, of course, to big $$$ for this one company. Certainly, we taxpayers don’t need more of the same.

    And, BTW, WHERE is that lottery money that is supposed to be going to education funding?

  4. A hard choice, but I voted for it. Almost all of the highway construction and repair in Illinois is done by unionized workers, both the actual state employees and the contractors. The system is not perfect, but at least the contractors are required to pay prevailing wages and benefits. (Rauner wants to end that.) Statistically, it is very dangerous work, they get hit by cars and killed or maimed far too often.
    The politicians in Illinois can not be trusted. They were trusted to fund our pensions properly and they did not do so, instead they resorted to pension theft. The only thing that stopped them was the Illinois constitution. The highway funds are a large pile of money, the politicians are easily tempted. They will “sweep” the funds again and then say Illinois is broke because the highway workers make too much money. This amendment will help prevent that.
    The lottery money goes to the education funds. The politicians then reduced the amount from general funds by the same amount, in effect, stealing the extra funding from the lottery. They then blamed school budget shortfalls on the teachers for “making too much money”.

  5. I’m also voting against it, though the arguments for it have some merit. I fully understand the vital importance of good transportation systems to a modern economy. It seems that road construction and other transportation areas, plus the private companies with which the State of Illinois contracts for building and maintenance will get special constitutional status in terms of its funding that, for example, public education, also vital for a modern economy, will not. If Illinois’ politicians would deal with Illinois’ fiscal problems in a responsible manner, like providing the State with a proper system of taxation and a revenue flow, there would be no need at all even to consider such an amendment.

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