* The SJ-R editorializes against the proposed lockbox amendment…
If this amendment passes, the road funds will go into a “lockbox” and will be untouchable, even in a dire emergency.
It’s like taking a family’s household budget and saying that an important priority — say, saving for your kids’ college funds — would be locked up. Sounds good, until a financial crisis happens and you have no money to put food on the table, right?
Other states that have passed similar measures have provisions to declare a fiscal emergency and access those funds. Illinois’ measure doesn’t. That’s why voters should see big red flags.
Past history shows that once Illinois’ constitution is amended, it’s a highly difficult process to get it changed back. Exhibit A, the state’s efforts to find a way to deal with its skyrocketing pension obligations.
Transportation is an important investment for the state to make. But so is education, both K-12 and higher education. So are social services. So are public safety issues. Will they get their own dedicated funds?
If it wasn’t for all the Republican votes on this thing and the governor’s total silence, I’d be easily convinced this was a clever ploy by Speaker Madigan to lock up state money so that Gov. Rauner can’t use it to fund another patchwork, stopgap budget.
But, the Republicans found themselves in boiling hot water with the road builders last year when the GA and Rauner swept the Road Fund to pass the FY 16 budget “fix.” So, they had some making up to do.
Same thing happened on the Democratic side with the trade unions.
However, I cannot imagine Madigan supporting this hastily crafted proposal (with a ton of unintended consequences) under any other governor.
*** UPDATE *** The Center for Municipal Finance has a new and unfavorable analysis of the proposal…
The proposed constitutional amendment, the Illinois Transportation Taxes and Fees Lockbox Amendment, is highly problematic for several reasons.
• First, its wording is vague, and as a result its actual impact is unclear. The proposed amendment’s lack of clarity may result in more revenue streams, at both state and local levels of government, than intended being restricted to a limited number of transportation related expenses.
• Second, the proposed amendment is likely to divert revenue away from other areas of state and local budgets. The Lockbox Amendment would not increase total revenue—rather, it would change how existing revenue is spent.
• Third, because it is being proposed as a constitutional amendment and not a regular statute, any negative consequences would be extremely difficult to modify or reverse.