Unless you are brand new to Illinois, you know how terrible our roads are. Severe winters, tons of salt, and millions of vehicles have taken a toll. Every pothole seems worse than the one before it. When you’re fenced in by traffic on all sides, they are inescapable. It make matters worse — ironically — seems that the roads of Illinois are permanently under construction. This work often brings traffic to an excruciating slow-roll or screeching halt. It’s during these times that people wish they could be absolutely anywhere else.
Clearly, it’s time for a change! Illinois’ infrastructure, highways, and transit systems are crumbling. There’s no way around the fact that the state’s infrastructure needs significant investment to make things right. How to pay for these needed maintenances and repairs is the tricky thing … as always
The state’s broken and battered roads, bridges and other public infrastructure are actually an unfortunate allegory for Illinois’ financial situation at large. Obviously, changes need to be made. But dramatic changes, however, require money– a commodity Illinois is not only short on but notorious for handling poorly.
Springfield once again believes they have the solution to solving Illinois’ infrastructure issue. Their idea? A six-year capital construction plan that could add up to an astounding $45 billion. And while it’s true that Illinois’ needs are aplenty when it comes to infrastructure — the state’s last capital program was approved over a decade ago — concerned citizens such as you and I should be skeptical about this new and hastily conceived plan.
How is a state that is already so desperately in debt going to get $45 BILLION?! Well, we know exactly where this money is going to come from … you and me; a myriad of different ways. Adding to this fee and that fee, this tax and that tax; essentially nickel and diming taxpayers in order to fund these contemplated projects through the issuance of new bonds. This despite that fact that Illinois taxpayers are already haunted by an obscene amount of debt. Adding another $45 billion to that heap is unthinkable, even for Illinois. The state already has the worst credit rating in the country.
There’s simply, unfortunately, no way Illinois can perform the rehaul of the roads everyone needs without additional significant borrowing and hiking taxes even further. The amount they’re planning on receiving through higher taxes? $1.8 billion each year. The state’s fuel tax is contemplated to increase from 19 cents to 38 cents per gallon. The taxes won’t end there. Citizens can expect new vehicle regulation fees in addition to new taxes on parking, cable, streaming services, liquor, and more.
Assuming Illinois generates the funding necessary to pay for the contemplated capital plan or a slimmed-down version, we need these dollars spent wisely. Given the precarious financial condition of Illinois — which continues to decline — all infrastructure money must be maximized for efficient use and not squandered. All too often these improvement plans are seen as a “jobs program” rather than as needed infrastructure improvements. The money needs to be spent on only the most important projects.
Illinois’ roads and infrastructure is in terrible condition and continues to crumble all the worse, just as the state’s finances. It is the citizens who are stuck driving the shoddy roads every day, and it is the citizens who are stuck paying increased taxes. Thus, this time we need the capital plan to be executed in an efficient manner. Here’s hoping past lessons are learned.