In a 69-48 vote, the Illinois House passed HB 318, a measure that would draw money from several designated programs, including road and construction funds, to go toward balancing the state budget and making up a $1.3 billion deficit.
The bill would specifically take $250 million from the Road Fund, $50 million from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund, $50 million from the State Construction Account Fund, and $9 million from the Public Infrastructure Construction Loan Revolving Fund.
The Transportation for Illinois Coalition said this effort would make roads in the state worse.
“Every dollar in the Road Fund is needed for maintenance and repair of our existing highway, road and bridge system,” the coalition said in a statement. “Any transfer to other spending purposes highlights one of the reasons we have significant infrastructure needs and exacerbates an already bleak future for Illinois’ transportation system.”
The coalition added that sweeps efforts in the past have hurt the state’s entire transportation system. “If the proposed sweep is enacted, it will only add pressure on policymakers to approve a comprehensive and sustainable funding solution for transportation to prevent nearly 5 in 10 road miles in Illinois from being in unacceptable condition by 2020.”
Several associations, including the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois, Associated General Contractors of Illinois, Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers and the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, sent Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner a letter expressing their displeasure with the bill, citing that it’s misleading to the public.
“The motoring public, from all walks of life, pay into these funds with the expectation that their user fees will in fact go back into maintaining and improving Illinois’ transportation infrastructure,” the associations said in the letter. “In fact, voters in other states are so adamant about protecting infrastructure funding that they have supported, by large majorities, ballot initiatives that ‘firewall’ these funds from sweeps by government officials. Perhaps a similar ballot question should be posed to the voters of Illinois.”
The associations said pulling funds from transportation infrastructure would only lead to increased costs in bringing roads and bridges up to an acceptable condition. “Diversions from transportation infrastructure funds results in a double tax of the middle class because the user fee paid at the pump is being used to balance the general revenue fund,” the said.