Show me the money!

By Diane Benjamin

I bet you missed this one! Cook County was sued for diverting $250,000,000 annually, of monies collected from a variety of transportation-related taxes and fees. The Safe Roads Amendment (lock box) was approved by voters in 2016, it prohibits transportation relates revenues from being spent elsewhere.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled against Cook County on April 21, 2022. But it gets better!

The ruling not only applies to Chicago, it applies to every municipality that collects transportation-related taxes and fees, regardless of the source.

Home Rule governments are NOT exempt!

Hello Bloomington & Normal!

Since Bloomington actually has Aldermen who care, I will show you Normal isn’t spending transportation-related taxes and fees on the roads.

Start with this story, it includes a link to the Supreme Court ruling: https://www.truthinaccounting.org/news/detail/cook-county-cant-use-250m-transportation-taxes-fees-to-fund-county-operations-il-supreme-court

All of these Cook County taxes were identified in the ruling:

Six sources of revenue allegedly being unconstitutionally diverted away from transportation uses were identified: (1) the Cook County Home Rule County Use Tax Ordinance (see Cook County Code of Ordinances § 74-270 et seq. (adopted Feb. 16, 2011); (2) the Cook County Retail Sale of Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Tax Ordinance (see id. § 74-470 et seq.); (3) the Cook County New Motor Vehicle and Trailer Excise Tax Ordinance (see id. § 74-230 et seq.); (4) the Cook County Home Rule Use Tax Ordinance for Non-Retailer Transfers of Motor Vehicles (see Cook County Code of Ordinances § 74-595 et seq. (adopted Nov. 15, 2011)); (5) the Cook County Wheel Tax on Vehicles Ordinance (see Cook County Code of Ordinances § 74-550 et seq. (adopted May 21, 2020)); and (6) the Cook County Parking Lot and Garage Operations Tax Ordinance (see Cook County Code of Ordinances § 74-510 et seq. (adopted July 17, 2013)). These taxes will be referred to collectively as the “Cook County Transportation Taxes.” S

Here’s where we have a problem! Normal puts most of their revenue from local transportation taxes in the General Fund instead of putting things like the Local Motor Fuel Taxes in a separate account. They also get Township money that has to be spent on Roads and bridges – it’s in the General Fund too.

Let’s try tracking the money using the current budget – it shows the actual spending FY 2020-2021 https://www.normalil.gov/DocumentCenter/View/19729/2022-23-Final-Budget

Money received and spent on roads from State Motor Fuel Taxes and CDBG funds don’t matter, they never touch the General Fund are accounted for correctly.

PDF page 58-59 shows these transportation related taxes which Normal deposits into the General Fund.

$1,024,325 – Local Motor Fuel Tax.

$  388,218 – Road & Bridge Tax (From the Townships)

$  542,543 – Vehicle Use Tax

$2,361,687 – Local Use Tax

$   58,661 – State Road & Sign Maint.

$4,645,434 – Total transportation related taxes and fee Revenues. (sales tax on fuel could arguably be added, but I excluded them to be conservative.)

NOW:

Jump to PDF page 96 to find the General Fund’s transportation related expenses, Mass Transit for $927,500 and under TRANSFERS it shows $485,050 transferred out of the General Fund and into the Roadway Fund. In a nutshell, only 30% of the transportation related taxes Normal collected went towards transportation related expenses. 70% remained in the General Fund to be used for other purposes!

If Normal wanted to stockpile money to use in future years for transportation-related projects, where should that money be kept?

The ROADWAY FUND of course! They are doing exactly what Cook County was sued for – using the local transportation taxes to fund other projects instead of what taxpayers were told and how the IL Constitution mandates the money be used. Getting mad yet? If not, then how are the roads?

Is Normal’s budget Constitutional?

Remember when Normal doubled the gas tax? Stan Nord tried to “lock-box” the funds for transportation purposes. None of the other Trustees agreed with him, including the two so-called Republicans Lorenz and self- described “conservative fighter” Scott Preston. https://www.wglt.org/show/wglts-sound-

Nord complained that residents see their taxes go up, then learn the revenue doesn’t go to the stated purpose. So, he proposed an amendment with wording that required all revenue from the gas tax hike be spent on infrastructure repairs to streets and sidewalks….

The amendment failed on a 6-1 vote, with Nord being the only one in favor of it.

McCarthy later criticized Nord for accusing the town of misappropriating funds and said Nord owed the staff an apology.

It appears the IL Supreme Court sees things the same way Stan Nord did. And it appears Normal’s budget and spending is unconstitutional. Kevin McCarthy should eat crow.

If Normal does not change their budget to comply with the IL Constitution, then residents should report Normal to the Attorney General.

Mr. Nord brought this up at last night’s meeting, just hit play. Stay tuned after his comment for Pam Reece:

11 thoughts on “Show me the money!

  1. How do we file a lawsuit? Does this qualify as corruption for the Edgar County Watchdogs? I wonder if Tom DeVore would take this case?

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  2. How do you file a lawsuit?
    The law firm that beat Cook County said “any unit of government that does not comply with the amendment should expect litigation.”
    So,
    1.) Contact the law firm that beat Cook County. Here is their news release with the attornies’ names and contact info.
    https://www.tdrlawfirm.com/news/article/tdr-wins-illinois-supreme-court-victory-for-roadbuilders/

    2.) Contact a local road builder, Laborers’ Union, Operator’s Union, or concrete or asphalt plant and ask them to contact their associations and file suit. It was their associations that hired the above law firm.

    3.) Contact the elected council members who campaigned as Republicans, conservative fighters, or said they want the government to comply with laws. (This has little chance for success because these same people have refused to dedicate this money to the roads for years.)

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  3. On April 21, TDR attorneys John Fitzgerald, Gino L. DiVito, Amanda Catalano, and Jonathan Kim won an impressive victory in the Illinois Supreme Court for the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, and a coalition of other associations representing the transportation infrastructure construction and design industry, in litigation to enforce the Safe Roads Amendment to the Illinois Constitution.

    The Safe Roads Amendment was passed by an overwhelming majority of Illinois voters in the 2016 General Election. It prohibits the diversion of transportation tax revenues to non-transportation purposes.

    The Roadbuilders allege that, in violation of the Safe Roads Amendment, Cook County diverts approximately $250 million annually in revenue collected from transportation-related taxes and fees to purposes other than transportation. Cook County did not deny that those tax revenues are generated from transportation, but claimed that home rule units of government, such as Cook County, are exempt from complying with the Amendment. The Supreme Court rejected that argument and held that “the Amendment, by its plain language, applies to all moneys derived from transportation-related taxes, fees, excises, or license taxes.”

    The Supreme Court’s opinion thus confirms that home rule units of government must comply with the Safe Roads Amendment and may not divert transportation tax revenues to purposes other than transportation.

    The transportation industry coalition includes the American Council of Engineering Companies (Illinois Chapter), the Associated General Contractors of Illinois, the Chicagoland Associated General Contractors, the Illinois Concrete Pipe Association, the Federation of Women Contractors, the Great Lakes Construction Association, the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers, the Illinois Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, and the Underground Contractors Association of Illinois. TDR is proud to represent all of them in this historic litigation.

    The Illinois Supreme Court’s opinion can be found here.

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  4. This dog and pony show does not mean squat. Preston and Lorenz will continue to side with Koos and his other loyal rubber stampers who don’t give a crap about taxpayers. My biggest disappointment is that Normal voters re-elected the same people in the last election. Until Nord gets some help on the council the Mayor will keep his knee on Nord’s neck while the others watch.

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