Roads and Only Roads: Where Does the Money Go?

Roads and Only Roads: Where Does the Money Go?

Orange Road Work Ahead Sign showing traffic jam behind in soft focus

Controversies upon controversies, this election cycle seems to be the master of generating debate on a variety of topics – roads and infrastructure are no exception!

For instance, Illinois voters were presented the choice of voting on how revenues received from Illinois infrastructure systems such as motor fuel tax, tollway charges, and license and vehicle registration fees were to be handled after the revenues themselves were collected. The amendment calls for revenues to be placed in a “lock box”, also known as a protected fund, so that the money being made from these fees and tolls can be reinvested into infrastructure needs like future projects or payment to the various Unions that actually build and maintain the roads.

Voting “Yes” would support the lock box whereas a “No” vote would open up the revenues to be fed into areas where the state saw fit.

The amendment passed with an overwhelming number voting “Yes”, some 80 percent of Illinois voters in support, according to ABC Chicago. Those who backed the amendment were primarily big contractors and labor groups, and as the polls show, the bulk of Illinois citizens.

Ballot box painted into national flag colors - United States

Concern over the amendment’s passing can be described as such:

  • During a time of potential crisis, this legislation would deny a surplus of money to be used in any beneficial way.
  • Illinois, a state with profound budget issues, should be working on freeing up budget allocations rather than limiting where state revenues can go.
  • This amendment could set a precedent for future legislation that confines state spending to specific sectors.

The last point seems to be the issue that resonates the most with those who are skeptical of the new legislation. No one denies that the maintenance of our roads are an extremely important endeavor, but the mode in which we go about supporting our roads is what is causing the concern. According to Illinois Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, the Illinois Safe Roads amendment is missing key “safety valves” for fiscal emergencies that would allow transportation funds to be used in areas other than transportation and infrastructure. Other states have passed “lock box” funds like this, but with the inclusion of these “safety valves” – Illinois’ Safe Roads does not have these precautions in place.

Illinois historic track record of general corruption has created distrust within its voting base. Voters are more comfortable definitively knowing where transportation revenues are going rather than leaving it to the discretion of our officials. Support for the amendment can be summarized with the following points:

  • The Illinois-Indiana-Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting wrote that “Illinois is in dire need of investments in infrastructure, which in turn will promote business and economic growth.”
  • The Metropolitan Planning Council analyzed: “transportation investment has fallen by 40 percent and the percentage of roads in good condition has fallen from 90 percent to 79 percent.”

KAITAIA, NZ - NOV 05:Road worker slows traffic with stop sign on Nov 05 2013.The Road Maintenance crew has the responsibility for the day-to-day maintenance needs of the road system.

And as November 8th passed, so has this vote on Illinois’ Safe Roads. Time will be the main teller on the effectiveness of the new bill, and hopefully, the state won’t be forced into dire straits once again. Illinois is not the only state with the lock box legislation in place. California, Maryland, and Wisconsin all have similar statutes which passed under, more or less, the same conditions. Taxpayers seem to take solace in definitively knowing where their money goes.

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