Safe Roads Constitutional Amendment and Conservation

The proposed constitutional amendment could have unintended consequences for conservation in Illinois.

You can read the Safe Roads Constitutional Amendment in its entirety here.

This amendment to Illinois’ constitution purports to keep the gas tax in a “lockbox” that can only be used for transportation, and comes in response to significant sweeps from the road fund to pay for other services. The actual text of the amendment – which will be added to the Constitution if it gets more than 60% of the vote – would direct any fee, excise, or tax related to vehicles or licenses to transportation causes.

In 2012, the Illinois environmental community worked to pass a $2 fee on license plates to fund the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

This fee on every plate results in a significant percentage of the IDNR conservation budget each year. If this amendment passes, the impact on conservation programs is uncertain, but could be significant. In one scenario, this money could continue to be directed towards conservation programs with legislative language that defines these programs as being in the “nexus” of transportation. However, this might be a stretch for the courts, which could then find the fee unconstitutional, causing the money to be redirected. Read more about these concerns here.

Additionally, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning has concerns about the ability to pay for planning and environmental impact statements out of transportation dollars under this amendment. You can read more about CMAP’s concerns here.

It is possible that the amendment could have positive impacts on environmentally friendly forms of transportation such as bikes, trails, electric vehicles, and public transit. Protected funding for transportation may result in improved funding for active transit needs. Under this scenario, we will still need to advocate to prioritize these forms of transportation. Read more on the Active Transportation Alliance blog.

Voters should take these concerns into account when casting their ballot on election day.

Should the amendment pass, IEC will work to protect conservation and active transit in future budgets and we will reach out to you for your assistance.

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