Transportation tax dollars must be spent on transportation projects. That is the result of an Illinois Supreme Court ruling Thursday.
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is applauding the decision on how transportation tax dollars are spent by local governments.
The case revolved around the Safe Roads Act, also known as the Transportation Lockbox Amendment, approved by voters in 2016. The amendment requires governments to use transportation funds solely on transportation work.
The Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association challenged Cook County diverting around $250 million in lockbox funds for another purpose.
Filed Thursday, the court’s majority opinion said “we find the language of the Amendment to be plain and unambiguous, reject the County’s interpretation of the Amendment as unreasonable, and find no issue with the manner in which home-rule units have had their power limited in the transportation context.”
The Illinois Chamber submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the position taken by the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders.
Chamber President Todd Maisch said the court ruled that the lockbox fund must be used for transportation purposes, and there are no gray areas.
“We are not going to allow you to nibble at the edges and try and call something a transportation expenditure that is not truly a transportation expenditure,” said Maisch.
Not everyone is a fan of the “lockbox amendment.” Ted Dabrowski, in an article for Illinois Policy in 2016, said dictating how transportation funds can be spent has no place in the Illinois Constitution.
“The Illinois Constitution’s purpose is to spell out the fundamental rights of citizens and the basic operational structure of government,” he wrote. “It’s not supposed to legislate or appropriate.”
Even so, Maisch said the the Illinois Supreme Court ruling will have far reaching implications.
“This is very important because it is the first major challenge that will set precedent for years and years to come, so it is a much bigger deal than dollars that were at stake on this one expenditure,” said Maisch.
This article was originally posted on Illinois Supreme Court rules transportation taxes can’t be diverted