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.)
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: