CHICAGO - Today, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability released a Fact Sheet on Constitutional Amendment 36, the so-called "Safe Roads Amendment," explaining why it would exacerbate, rather than improve, Illinois' budget problems.
The SRA would amend the state constitution to require that transportation-related revenues be spent only for transportation-related purposes. Proponents claim the amendment is necessary because the state diverts funds meant for transportation to other purposes, leaving insufficient resources for road and railway maintenance and construction.
While Illinois' transportation infrastructure does need investment, the SRA is not a good solution. The Amendment's text is both sweeping and vague, leaving unclear a) which revenue streams it would lock into transportation uses, and b) what exactly would count as a transportation use. A plain reading of the amendment suggests that it would apply to revenue streams that are not currently used for, or meant to be used for, transportation, diverting money from other crucial programs-including over $240 million from the City of Chicago's general operations, and $30 million from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
More fundamentally, the SRA misdiagnoses the reason that Illinois under-invests not just in transportation, but in other important services as well. The state simply does not have enough revenue to cover its expenses, and moving money from one expenditure to another without increasing total resources will not solve the problem.
Finally, using a constitutional amendment to make this change, rather than a regular statute, means that any unintended consequences of the SRA will be very difficult to remedy. In fact, no changes would be possible until the next statewide election in two years. For this reason, using the Illinois Constitution as a budgeting tool is unwise, and will aggravate the problems caused by the SRA if it passes.
For more information, contact Daniel Hertz at email@example.com or 312-332-1481.
The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, established in 2000, is a bi-partisan 501(c)(3) research and advocacy think tank that promotes fair, efficient and progressive tax, spending and economic policies.