Letters to the Editor

Another view: Illinois drivers need the Safe Roads Amendment

It’s no secret to St. Clair County drivers that many state roads and bridges need to be improved.

Despite drivers paying billions in gas taxes, more than 20 percent of our state highways and thousands of our bridges are in unacceptable condition, according to IDOT. One reason why: More than $6.8 billion has been diverted out of the state’s Road Fund over the past 13 years.

That must change, and now there’s a plan to fix the problem.

The first issue voters will see on the November ballot is the Safe Roads Amendment – and we encourage voters to vote “yes” to support it. This constitutional amendment will help ensure public funds intended for transportation are actually spent on transportation. Clearly, this is an important public policy reform that Illinois desperately needs.

The amendment deserves support for two critical reasons: re-establishing taxpayer trust, and keeping our vital transportation system repaired and safe. Without this amendment, it’s going to get worse. In just three years, 40 percent of our roads will be deemed unacceptable – double what it is today – according to IDOT. During the same period, traffic is anticipated to increase, accelerating wear and tear on these roads. Many bridges will close or impose weight restrictions, rerouting traffic and causing further congestion.

In this public policy debate, we respectfully disagree with arguments raised in the News-Democrat editorial (“Illinois lawmakers hope you lock away highway taxes for their own good,” Oct. 4). The Illinois Chamber supports the Safe Roads Amendment – and we also supported the Independent Maps initiative, and other initiatives calling for Illinois government reform.

Advocates for reform should be advocates for Safe Roads. A well-maintained infrastructure doesn’t just benefit the construction industry; it benefits every driver on Illinois roads. That’s the idea: motorists already pay taxes on gas to support the roads and bridges they drive on – so that is where the money should go. That is why the Safe Roads Amendment enjoys overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.

The amendment is also supported by business and labor, including companies that move our goods, advocates for modern transit systems, and even the gas stations that collect the gas taxes we all pay. All of these groups want to make sure that the taxes we are paying are being used for their intended purpose.

In the next few weeks, voters can make a difference on this issue. We encourage you to support the Safe Roads Amendment by voting “Yes” on the constitutional amendment on the November General Election ballot.

Thirty other states already constitutionally protect transportation money. It is time for Illinois to join them.

Todd Maisch is president and CEO, Illinois Chamber of Commerce.