Illinois Comptroller Warns Against Diversions

Published June 1, 2005

Diversions of state highway funds toward other purposes have become such a problem that Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes warned against them in his 2004 quarterly report. He noted that because fuel taxes and license fees are flat (not indexed to rising prices), the problem is compounded in the face of inflation. “[O]nce monies are diverted,” Hynes said, “it is almost impossible for the highway program to recoup.”

Missouri voters last year approved by referendum an anti-diversion amendment, but no such calls have been raised in Illinois.

Significantly, more than highways suffer from diversions. Almost 25 percent of highway user fees collected by the state go to local governments–many of them cash-strapped–for local roads.

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition attributed the diversions to promises by Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to hold the line on taxes, a deficit budget, and hot competition for state-funded services. However, Richard Adorjan, a spokesman for the coalition, argued that by diverting highway funds for other purposes, the state has managed to add another crisis–failing roads–to its present inventory of crises.