New Road Lockbox Constitutional Amendment Being Tested in Cook County

The sign used to promote the Transportation Lock Box Constitutional Amendment. 

No one thought it worth the money to challenge McHenry County under the Lockbox Constitutional Amendment when Jack Franks took half the salary for his new patronage employee Oliver Serafin from the County Highway Department.

See Half-Paid from McDOT Funds, Franks Patronage Worker Gets Department Tour

for content of the Constitutional Amendment.

But a coalition of road builders and others who oppose diversion of gas tax money by Cook County have sued.

Here is an article from the Illinois News Network by Cole Lauterbach on the subject:

Cook County seeks dismissal of lawsuit claiming violations of state constitution, state could see same challenge

Lawyers representing Cook County want a judge to toss a lawsuit that claims the county failed to follow a new state constitutional amendment aimed at protecting road construction funds.

If the county loses, it could put a massive hole in its budget. And the state of Illinois could be next.

A group of associations representing the construction trades sued Cook County alleging it moved $250 million meant for road, bridges and other projects to other things not related to construction. That was outlawed in 2016 when voters passed the Safe Roads “Lockbox” amendment.

The constitutional change, which was supported by a majority of voters, requires funds put into special accounts meant for roads, bridges and other construction funds to be restricted to those purposes.

Before the amendment was passed, it was commonplace for state lawmakers to authorize money be “swept” from special funds like this and then the debt would be forgiven at a later date. When construction industry groups pushed for the constitutional change ahead of the 2016 election, they said lawmakers had diverted billions in gas tax revenue designated for road work to shore up budgets.

Mike Sturino, president and CEO of the Illinois Road & Transportation Builders Association, said Cook County hasn’t been honest with its budgeting.

“When an elected official promises to raise revenue based upon transportation so that it can be reinvested to be used more as a user fee instead of a tax, the people who they represent deserve to be leveled with,” he said. “What we’ve found time and again are diversions, sweeps of money that were promised for infrastructure were being spent on unrelated uses.”

His group is looking into a number of other units of government that it suspects aren’t abiding by the constitutional provision, including the state of Illinois itself.

“The state of Illinois is one of the governmental bodies that we’re looking at to make sure they’re in compliance,” he said. “We have a number of inquiries going on throughout the state.”

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The hearing for the dismissal plea is set for Aug. 24.

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You can read the original filing here.


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