The first item that Illinois voters will see on the ballot on Tuesday is the Safe Roads Amendment. The Amendment would protect– or “lockbox”– all revenue contributed by drivers through motor fuel taxes, tollways, licenses, and vehicle registration fees and require that the money is used solely for transportation purposes.
I surveyed 110 of 578 economics and public policy academics at accredited universities and colleges in Illinois with publicly-available email addresses in August 2016. Among the many topics addressed, I presented the professors and instructors with the following question on the Safe Roads Amendment:
In November, the Safe Roads Amendment will be voted on by the Illinois public. This amendment would require all money from motor fuel taxes, vehicle registration fees, and other transportation-related taxes to be spent solely on transportation purposes (e.g., roads, bridges, public transit systems).
The state’s top economists and policy experts generally supported the “lockbox” amendment. In total, 54% of respondents supported the ballot measure versus 23% who opposed it. Another 18% had mixed feelings. Overall, economics and policy academics in Illinois tended to have more positive than negative views on the Safe Roads Amendment.
Thus, while a recent position paper by Christopher Berry, Michael Belsky, and Amanda Kass at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy disapproves of the Safe Roads Amendment, they are likely in the minority – unless a significant share of Illinois’ economics and policy professors have changed their minds since August. [Side note: Berry and Belsky are incredibly talented and were two of my favorite instructors at Harris; it almost pains me to disagree with them.]
Similar transportation lockbox amendments have recently been voted on in states across the country. Below is a table of the results of transportation lockbox amendments in California (2010), Maryland (2014), and Wisconsin (2014) according to Ballotpedia:
The ballot measures all passed with significant public support.