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Voters amend Illinois Constitution to protect transportation funds

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Voters on Tuesday approved an amendment to the Illinois Constitution requiring that gas taxes, license plate fees and other transportation-related revenue be spent only on transportation expenses.

The amendment, which creates a so-called “lockbox” for transportation funds, had broad support from labor unions, construction and business interests, and members of both political parties. A campaign committee called Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding raised nearly $3.8 million from business and labor groups to support the amendment.

The Associated Press called the measure in favor of the amendment shortly before 9 p.m. With 86 percent of precincts reporting statewide, 79 percent of voters had cast ballots in support of the amendment, according to unofficial election returns. State constitutional amendments require support from either 60 percent of those voting on the question or 50 percent of those casting ballots in the election as a whole.

Supporters said the measure was necessary because the Illinois General Assembly has too often diverted money meant for roads, bridges and other infrastructure to pay for unrelated expenses, resulting in a deteriorating transportation system.

A major supporter of the amendment was the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, a group of business and labor organizations.

“Illinois voters spoke clearly that they believe the best path to improving the state’s transportation systems and budget priorities in Springfield is through the Safe Roads Amendment providing real taxpayer protection and reform,” the coalition said in a prepared statement. “With this vote, our investment in roads, bridges, transit and other modes of transportation will be protected, our transportation networks will be stronger and safer, and our policymakers will need to get serious about addressing the serious challenges Illinois faces.”

The coalition also thanked voters for their support.

There was some dispute over exactly how much money has been diverted away from transportation.

Supporters said the total was $6.8 billion since 2002. But the Civic Federation, a Chicago-based budget watchdog, said supporters defined diversions too broadly, and it argued that the total was actually less than $520 million.

Opponents, including other public policy organizations such as the bipartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, also argued that the amendment will tie the hands of local governments.


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