Fact Sheet: The Safe Roads Amendment Is Bad Policy for Illinois


October 31, 2016

This Election Day, Illinois residents will vote on Constitutional Amendment 36, the so-called “Safe Roads Amendment” (SRA). 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.

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.

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Topics:Tax and Budget

Tags:Transportation, State Constitution