Editorials

Illinois lawmakers hope you lock away highway taxes for their own good

If 60 percent of voters say “yes” on Nov. 8, the Illinois Constitution will be amended to guarantee motor fuel taxes cannot be used for anything other than highway construction. Here, workers in 2013 complete a roundabout on Centreville Avenue at Illinois 15 in Belleville.
If 60 percent of voters say “yes” on Nov. 8, the Illinois Constitution will be amended to guarantee motor fuel taxes cannot be used for anything other than highway construction. Here, workers in 2013 complete a roundabout on Centreville Avenue at Illinois 15 in Belleville. tvizer@bnd.com

On. Nov. 8 you will be asked whether you trust our state lawmakers. While the answer seems obvious, it really is a trick question.

There is an amendment to the Illinois Constitution on the ballot. It asks whether you want a constitutional guarantee that the 19 cents a gallon that you are taxed at the pump for road construction will definitely go to road construction. It locks away the money so state lawmakers cannot spend it on anything else.

Well of course you want to limit the fiscal barbarians of Springfield, right?

Unless you look closer at the amendment and see who’s in favor of it.

State lawmakers themselves put this on the ballot after rejecting their members’ other ideas to put term limits and independent redistricting amendments on the ballot. When 563,974 registered Illinois voters petitioned to get the independent maps amendment on the ballot, House Speaker Mike Madigan’s envoys fought it and killed it with an assist from the four Democrats on the Illinois Supreme Court.

So the guys who do not trust you to say whether you trust them to redistrict, or to decide when they are out of touch and should leave Springfield, want you to trust them that they are not trustworthy with your highway taxes.

We live in a bankrupt state that is on the verge of finally passing budgets and massive tax increases after the Nov. 8 election so state lawmakers can continue spending at will and ignoring the impact of their spending on the job climate and working taxpayers. This lawmaker proposal came up after they rejected calls to raise gasoline taxes.

So who will benefit?

▪  Construction companies and union workers, who will be guaranteed a steady stream of cash and work.

▪  Lawmakers, who will see the campaign cash flow from their long-time supporters at the construction companies and unions.

▪  Lawmakers, again, when they are relieved of the obligation to explain why they are building a new highway when they continue to shirk their obligation to properly fund our schools, short by $111 billion their pension promises or are late paying $8.5 billion in bills.

State lawmakers need 60 percent of the voters to agree that they cannot be trusted with highway fuel taxes. Don’t trust them, but also don’t trust them that locking away those dollars and decisions are in the state’s best interests.

We may wind up with lots of cash for road work, while failing to educate the future engineers and construction workers who would build them.

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