Kadner: Proposal on November ballot an insult to Illinois voters

SHARE Kadner: Proposal on November ballot an insult to Illinois voters
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The future of Illinois requires a dramatically increased investment in the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, a panel of experts said.| Illinois Department of Transportation

You won’t get a chance to vote on term limits for elected officials in Illinois in November or have an opportunity to reduce the power of state lawmakers to draw their own legislative districts.

But there is an amendment on the ballot to change the Illinois Constitution so that all money collected from the motor fuel tax, car registrations, licenses and on the toll roads must be spent on transportation projects.

OPINION

It’s called the “Safe Roads Amendment” because elected officials apparently believe it is more important to have safe roads in this state than adequately funded public schools, or quality mental health care, or day care programs for single mothers, or adequately funded services for the poor and homeless.

Our elected leaders haven’t even passed a budget for more than a year, which is sort of their basic job.

As a result, there is a $5 billion-plus budget deficit that grows with each passing day, meaning all of us have to spend millions of our dollars paying interest on our debt that will do nothing to make our lives any better.

There’s a state pension debt of $116 billion that has been growing for years, a real crisis, that lawmakers have failed to address.

But it’s transportation that has become this state’s top priority, not any of that.

Why? Well, there’s speculation that road construction companies, unions and legislators with ties to both of them want to make sure funding for transportation projects keeps flowing, even if state universities are forced to cut staff and United Way programs close.

Millions of dollars are being spent on commercials urging you to vote on the “Safe Roads Amendment,” also known as the “Lockbox Amendment,” when you go to the polls.

The idea is to stuff the cash for transportation into a locked box so lawmakers can’t take the money and use it to fund other state programs in need of cash.

The courts already have tied the hands of elected officials in Illinois by telling them they can’t cut the pay of state employees and must maintain certain levels of spending on health care and some social service programs.

So although there is no budget, the spending continues.

Like everything else in Illinois, the maintenance of roads and bridges has suffered in recent years. The costs of making those necessary repairs will continue to climb. Transportation safety is important.

But why is it more important than all of the other really important issues facing this state?

How has transportation funding risen to the level of amending the state constitution?

This issue only illustrates once again how much is wrong with government in Illinois.

The Illinois secretary of state was forced to print millions of little pamphlets explaining the amendment to voters and had to mail them out. Remember, the secretary of state didn’t have enough money last year to send reminders out to people when their drivers licenses were expiring.

The pamphlets contain pros and cons about the amendment and the wording as it will appear on the ballot.

I realize it’s tempting to tell legislators, “You have to spend our money in this way and for no other purpose,” especially in a state where elected leaders have squandered both cash and credibility.

But as the unpaid bills continue to mount, it’s impossible to predict what financial crisis will emerge next in Illinois.

An individual in such a predicament, for example, would have to decide whether to use scarce resources to pay his utility bills, health insurance premiums, mortgage or make the car payments.

If he were declared mentally incompetent, I guess someone could be authorized to make those decisions for him. Maybe that’s where we are at in Illinois.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

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