Voters are being asked whether spending on transportation programs, enforcement, & infrastructure should be protected under the Illinois Constitution. Protecting transportation funds for their intended purpose is important, but doing so through a constitutional amendment would be bad government.
The Constitution should provide a general framework, not give preferential treatment to one essential need. Rather than protecting only transportation, the Constitution should protect funding for all essential state obligations – education, health care, public safety.
The reason behind this proposed amendment is lack of adequate revenues to pay for state programs. The governor and General Assembly are responsible for raising sufficient revenue to meet state needs, preparing a budget, and appropriating revenue accordingly. Both branches of government have failed in their jobs, so the legislature chose to kick the revenue and appropriation issues to the voters when it comes to transportation spending.
Other aspects of the amendment are also troubling. Transportation funds could never be used in the case of a state emergency and this amendment takes the authority for appropriations and allocation of funds out of the hands of our elected public officials. Rigid constitutional language has previously caused unintended negative consequences for our state.
The state legislature’s current practice of diverting transportation funds into the General Revenue Fund should stop. Voters must now decide whether prioritizing transportation needs at the expense of all other competing needs warrants a constitutional amendment. And, whether locking these funds up, even in the case of a state emergency, is really in the best interests of Illinois residents.
Mary Kubasak, president, League of Women Voters of Illinois