SPRINGFIELD – In Illinois, we are fortunate to be the hub of Midwestern commerce and transportation. Because of our national status, the state must make an honest commitment to ensuring that our roads, rail, waterways and airports are kept modern and safe.
The Land of Lincoln is in the final year of its $31 billion capital construction plan which was passed in 2009, thus it is time to start thinking about a new long-term plan for funding our infrastructure. There are recent examples in Virginia and California of where a mix of revenue streams and repurposing of local resources has enabled those two states to more adequately keep up with projects.
California has passed a referendum which forces state transportation dollars to be more directed at the local level. So the voters in Los Angeles have the opportunity to determine which infrastructure projects will take top billing and they also directly control the flow of constructions dollars.
In Virginia, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers worked together the make sure that better rededicated transportation funds are used exclusively for the building of roads and bridges. Northern Virginia residents depend more on public transportation than their southern or coastal counterparts - so user fees and Washington, D.C. suburban residents are more on the "fiscal hook" for bus and train expenditures.
Back here in Illinois, we have one big pot of transportation dollars that are allocated for projects all over the state. However, these dollars are also used for Secretary of State, Illinois State Police and occasionally other agencies that are associated with roads and bridges. Under the Blagojevich Administration, it was common practice to divert road funds to pay for the insurance costs of "transportation-related" agencies.
In essence, the state's portion of a trooper's insurance costs were paid for from the road funds, because he or she patrolled the state's roadways. Of course, I believe that we should pay for a portion of a trooper's health insurance - but those appropriations should come from the personnel line item out of the Illinois State Police and not the road fund.
Road funds are meant to be spent for the building, repair and routine maintenance of our infrastructure. Special fund transportation dollars like those dedicated to trains, buses, airports or waterways must be protected and followed more closely. As the legislature begins discussions on a new long-term plan, I want to see an emphasis on more local control and less discretion by Springfield bureaucrats.
Our state's economic future depends on quality infrastructure and we can't afford to allow our roads to fall into a perpetual state of disrepair like we witnessed under the Blagojevich Administration.