An Open Letter to the Illinois General Assembly about the Federal Match

Hi, Guys-

Got an idea this morning that might be worth some consideration.

Even though I thought your imposition of the quarter of one percent sales tax on me and other collar county residents was a really bad idea, maybe there is a way you can turn this lemon into lemonade.

Could the federal transportation dollars be matched by the new collar county share of the “RTA” half percent sales tax money?

You know, like you used Cook County Hospital revenue to capture federal Medicaid money?

My guess is that with state roads being the responsibility of, well, you guys, collar county governments would be unwilling to use the new RTA local sales tax dollars to repair them.

Even though state roads like Route 31 between Crystal Lake and McHenry look like the Valley of the Potholes, the McHenry County Board wouldn’t want to repair it…

Unless it got “free money” from using the $9 million or so a year from its share of the new RTA sales tax.

Come to think of it, McHenry and some other collar counties levy their own Motor Fuel Taxes.

Why not use that to match the federal money, too?

Now, I’m sure that Downstate counties will cry that they are being left out.

Authorize them to levy a local gas tax. Then, they can qualify for the new source of funds as well.

Even Cook County levies a local MFT, but I think it used to go to the Cook County Jail. I am sure Todd’s budget folks are creative enough to figure out how to use that gas tax to capture the federal money, if you buy my idea.

In the process, they might even make that currently misdirected tax logical.

Let them use it to fix highways or the Chicago Transit Authority. Either would be more local than using it to pay prison guards.

This might be an appropriate time to bring up something I discovered when I applied for the job of county manager in Janesville, Wisconsin. Back then, county governments built the state roads, as well as their county roads.

It seems to me that might be one reason that Wisconsin roads are generally, but not always , better than those in Illinois.

Put the McHenry County Board in charge of re-building Route 31 and I’ll bet there will be a better road than if the folks in Schaumburg are in charge.


For the same reason that Valley Hi, the county nursing home, is better than the Woodstock Residence (of “Angel of Death” infamy). If someone has a complaint, they actually might be able to affect whether the county board member stays in office.

No similar threat to IDOT bureaucrats.


P.S. Here’s what the RTA quarter of one percent tax would have brought in last year for the collar counties:

  • DuPage – $45 million
  • Kane – $15.5 million
  • Lake- $28.1 million
  • McHenry – $9.2 million
  • Will – $19.2 million

That totals $117 million

DuPage, Kane and McHenry Counties have local Motor Fuel Taxes. Here’s what they brought in last year:

  • DuPage – $20.8 million
  • Kane – $7.6 million
  • McHenry – $4.7 million

for a total of $33.1 million.

Add the two together and you have in the neighborhood of $150 million a year. You’d have to subtract the part of the new local “RTA” sales tax that is drained off for law enforcement, but it’s whatever the amount, it’s not on the table as matching money now.

It’s certainly not enough to capture all the federal funds. That would take $

But it could get some highway projects off the ground.

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