Letter to the Editor: “Safe Roads” amendment must not pass

By Jarn Denijs

Illinois, a once-proud state known for the late former President Lincoln, corn, gerrymandering and its “political boss” Michael Madigan, has planted a surprise in this fall’s voting ballot.

Not only will we all vote for who we think is the lesser of two evils in this election, we will also vote on the “Safe Roads Constitutional Amendment,” a farce in disguise designed by construction firms and the unions whose members they employ.

Support the Daily Illini in College Media Madness!

Help the Daily Illini take back the top spot in the College Media Madness fundraising competition! See the current ranking here.

learn more
donate now

Both being loyal donors to Illinois lawmakers, they would in fact grant themselves “constitutionally guaranteed dibs (on) state and local tax revenue,” as the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board so eloquently phrased.

On a first read, the proposed amendment might actually sound nice, but if you start thinking about the consequences it entails, the true nature of the amendment is unveiled.

In essence, the proposed amendment calls for making transport related revenues inseparable from transport related public investments. Although there are arguments to be made for linking revenue and expenses, the state of Illinois unfortunately does not have enough budgetary leeway to make those arguments defendable.

Where now parts of the transportation fund, which is partially fueled by the gas tax, went to the general state budget, the amendment would make that unconstitutional, thus restricting our virtually bankrupt state even more.

According to the News Gazette, one of the reasons why the public universities are funded for this fall semester is because last summer state officials re-allocated $500 million from the transportation fund to the general fund. The short-term budget we currently have is a good example of the dire financial situation of the state.

This, combined with the pension crisis which is bound to only get worse given our aging population, and you can see why the proposed amendment might not be the best idea out there. At the end of the day, it’s a rather easy question: Would you rather fund the filling of potholes or stop public higher education from inevitably getting more expensive due to budgetary problems?

Regardless of the way this vote swings, it will set a precedent for the special interests on the state level.

If this passes, the construction lobby has proven that constituents can be deceived with euphemistically phrased proposals and other lobby groups will probably try to plant something similar in the next ballot. If it fails, special interests might be more cautious and redirect their focus on fancy dinners with legislators once again.

Jarn Denijs is a junior in LAS.

[email protected]