Despite criticism, Illinois voters overwhelmingly approve Safe Roads Amendment
Illinois' Constitution will be amended to include the so-called "Safe Roads Amendment," meant to allocate billions for transportation projects; but opponents say it will cause financial strain in an already financially strained state, after voters passed the measure during Tuesday's general election.
Illinois voters overwhelmingly approved the measure to add Section 11 to Article IX of the state's Constitution. The amendment required the approval of 60 percent of voters, or of more than 50 percent of all ballots cast, to pass. On Tuesday, about 80 percent of Illinois voters -- 3,690,927 yes to 985,245 no -- voted in favor of the measure.
Another name for the measure has been the "lockbox amendment" because of its roots in the uneasy pre-election truce between Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). Madigan's public support has been seen as key to getting the amendment on the ballot for Tuesday's election and for its eventual passage. Meanwhile, Rauner didn't publicly support the measure but he raised no objections to it.
The amendment's opponents included editorial boards of major Chicago newspapers, who recommended the measure be voted down and complaining that voters had been misled into believing the amendment has the approval of rank-and-file state residents.
However, the amendment did have widespread bipartisan support, in sharp contrast to other proposed amendments including term limits and redistricting that failed to make it onto Tuesday's ballot. That kind of support came about because state politicians realized they would not be affected by the measure, Pat Hughes, founder of the Illinois Opportunity Project, said during a conservative radio show appearance before the election.
“I think it is because you’re talking about a couple of different things,” Hughes told Dan Proft on the Illinois Rising radio show. “The remap and term limit is sort of politics. It’s the nature of politics. Whereas, this road-fund situation is directly to the pocketbooks. It speaks directly to what people worry about every day: where their money is being spent, whether they are going to have good roads to drive on -- things of that nature.”
Hughes said lawmakers are more likely to vote "yes" on an amendment that will not affect their position as lawmakers.
“(As a lawmaker), I’m not going to term-limit myself, and I am certainly not going to remap myself out of my seat but, hey, if I can get some points (by giving) out contracts and everything else, well then that is a different scenario and that makes good sense to me,” Hughes said.
The Sun-Times, citing unnamed sources, claimed the amendment was a joint effort by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association.
The measure was part of a joint resolution introduced in April 2015 by then-Rep. Frank Mautino, who now is Illinois Auditor General. The measure spent about a year in the House Rules Committee before it was read, was amended and enjoyed the sponsorship of dozens of state lawmakers.
The measure was adopted by the House and Senate this past May and added to the November General Election ballot.