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State of Illinois

Transportation Funding Could Get Constitutional Protection

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Legislators have ratified an amendment to the Illinois constitution but it's up to voters whether the provision will be enshrined in state law.

Over the years, when lawmakers have been short on cash for state needs, they've dipped into funds that are supposed to pay for infrastructure.

The idea is to put an end to that practice.

The proposed constitutional amendment would put transportation funding in a figurative "lock box."

Legislators from both parties easily approved the plan -- which is supported by business and labor unions alike. That makes it a political win.

"This will lead to a better transportation network, more jobs, and a growing economy,” Illinois Chamber of Commerce director Todd Maisch said in a press release, siting a figure that $6.4 billion have been swept from the Road Fund in recent years. It comes as transportation officials say Illinois' roads and bridges sorely need dollars for upkeep.

But it also constrains lawmakers as they search for dollars to plug budget holes for education and other basic government services.

Neither legislators or the governor get final say on the matter. Whether to protect the road funds will be a question put to voters in November's election.

The General Assembly failed to send other questions to the ballot. Some that got close would have led to fundamental changes to state government -- like an overhaul of how legislative districts are drawn, and allowing Illinois to set income tax rates dependent on wealth.

Copyright 2016 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS