Our legislators, once again, have sold out the public interest to the highest bidder.
Much of Illinois state government has descended into a sham and farce, so it should be no surprise that legislators have put a constitutional amendment on the fall ballot that also is a sham and farce.
Readers, meet the “Safe Roads Constitutional Amendment” brought to you by cash-rich building contractors and labor unions who want state dollars set aside for their exclusive benefit at the expense of public schools, social service agencies, higher education, law enforcement and just about every other meaningful state program.
Of course, that’s not how the proposal is being sold. Selfish political insiders hope the proposal’s surface appeal will persuade voters to cut their own throats on Election Day.
They even throw in Speaker Madigan for maximum effect.
* Proponents are now airing TV ads. Press release…
Illinois voters have the chance to take back control in Springfield this November and provide more money for transportation needs without raising taxes, a new statewide TV ad campaign argues.
Citizen to Protect Transportation Funding – a coalition of business, labor and construction groups – today announced a $1 million ad buy for a 30-second spot titled “When,” as part of its aggressive statewide public education campaign for a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot that will protect Illinois’ investment in its critical transportation infrastructure.
Featuring images of vehicles traveling over crumbling roadways filled with potholes and stark statistics about the high number of bridges and roads needing improvements in Illinois, the ad emphasizes that for too many years, Springfield politicians have shifted road funds to other expenses while the infrastructure decays – and the price to fix it climbs.
“Vote to require politicians to spend those transportation fees on transportation only. We can fix our roads without raising taxes. It’s not a matter of if disaster will strike, but when. Vote yes on the Safe Roads Amendment,” the ad’s narrator says, as a graphic on the screen says: Fix Roads. No New Taxes.
Lawmakers in the Illinois House and Senate in May approved House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 36, which calls for Illinois to put transportation funding in a lockbox. A study by the advocacy group Transportation for Illinois Coalition, whose members are driving this ballot initiative campaign, found more than $6.8 billion in funds earmarked for transportation were swept out of the state’s Road Fund and used for non-transportation spending over more than a dozen years – including more than $500 million in transportation dollars just last year.
* From the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform last week…
The top donation this week went to Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding, the ballot initiative committee supporting a Constitutional Amendment to create a transportation lockbox on the November ballot. The committee received $975,000 yesterday from an organization called the Fight Back Fund. Another $25,000 donation from the group on September 20th led to a total of $1 million from the Fight Back Fund to Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding this week.
Little information is available on the Fight Back Fund. State Board of Elections data shows a political committee by the same name from East Moline that went inactive 10 years ago. However, there does not appear to be a connection between the two organizations. The Illinois Secretary of State’s Corporation database shows that the group is filed as a 501(c)4 or 501(c)6 nonprofit organization, and lists Marc R. Poulos of Joliet as its head. Poulos is the Executive Director of the Indiana-Illinois-Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting and an advocate for the transportation lockbox amendment.
Unlike political committees, these types of nonprofits are not required to report their donors. Data from the Illinois State Board of Elections shows that yesterday’s $975,000 donation was the 7th largest individual donation of 2016. The other six donations were from SEIU, Governor Rauner, and GOP donors Richard Uihlein and Ken Griffin. 501(C)4 and 501(C)6 nonprofits like the Fight Back Fund are able to participate in political activity as long as it constitutes less than half of their overall activities. This organization alone accounts for 40% of Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding’s $2.5 million in cash on hand. ICPR is in the process of drafting and promoting legislation designed to bring transparency to this area of campaign finance.