Illinois voters will decide on a proposal to create a transportation funding "lockbox."
This letter first appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times in response to their editorial, "'Stop me,' says Springfield, 'before I hurt again'."
On Election Day this November, Illinois voters will see a proposal on their ballots to amend the state’s constitution to create a “lockbox,” which will prohibit legislators and the governor from using money collected specifically to improve our roads and public transportation to plug state budget gaps.
History suggests voters would be wise to approve this amendment. Time and again, particularly in years when state revenues have been tight, the General Assembly has dipped into what’s known as “the road fund.”
It’s no wonder Illinois’ roads and transit systems are deteriorating faster than we can repair them. Research by the Metropolitan Planning Council shows very clearly that Illinois needs to raise and spend $43 billion over the next 10 years to get our roads, bridges and transit systems back to a good state of repair.
Though the need is dire, we cannot in good faith advocate for such expenditures unless the public can be assured that the funds will go to the intended purpose. Much to their credit, the House and Senate this year, by overwhelming majorities, passed the lockbox amendment, which would write that assurance into our state’s constitution.
Yes, trust in our elected officials should be a matter of course. But it’s also true that history is a great teacher. What’s at stake in November is re-establishing the public’s trust in lawmakers that they will actually use the fees we all pay to maintain and expand our transportation system for that purpose. It is up to all of us as citizens to ratify that amendment.