October 20, 2016
The following letter to the editor was published the week of October 17, 2016.
On November 8, the Illinois electorate will be asked to vote on a proposed amendment to our state’s constitution. Commonly called the Lockbox Amendment, the law would put any revenues generated by transportation-related activities in a figurative lockbox and prohibit the state and its local governments from using these funds for other purposes.
Keeping Illinois roads, highways and bridges in safe working order is a reasonable, important objective. However, it is a goal that can and should be accomplished through a solution to the state’s underlying financial crisis, not through the extraordinary step of amending the state constitution.
Illinois has gone more than 15 months without a comprehensive, balanced budget. The state is on track this year to spend billions of dollars more than it has available, while only partially funding many core areas of government such as higher education and social services. It makes little public policy sense to hamstring lawmakers given this fiscal reality. Further, to imply that transportation should be a priority by default over critical services like healthcare, education or those for the elderly, poor or developmentally disabled is objectionable.
The amendment will also disrupt many of Illinois’ distressed local governments that use their vehicle sticker and other fees to fund general operations—salaries, programming, equipment and the like. The state should not tie the hands of municipalities to achieve a goal that is focused on state spending.
Instead, those residents thinking about voting in favor of the amendment should join the undersigned in demanding that lawmakers formulate a realistic multi-year plan to balance the budget and put Illinois back on sound financial footing. It will be painful, and it will require compromise and shared sacrifice from all of us. But it is a much more equitable and sustainable solution than irrevocably committing the State of Illinois to one exclusive spending priority.
Better Government Association
Tyrone C. Fahner
Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago
Illinois Partners for Human Service
Taxpayers Federation of Illinois