SPRINGFIELD(AP) – Less than half of the money from Illinois’ primary road construction fund was spent directly on highway construction, repairs and improvements over the past decade, according to an audit released Tuesday.
Auditor General William Holland found that of the approximately $25 billion in expenditures from the Road Fund, about $11.4 billion went to direct road construction, while the remaining money went to salaries, road construction bonds and other costs. Less than half of the money went directly to road construction in eight of the past 10 years, including the past two years, the audit concluded.
Gov. Pat Quinn’s office and the Illinois Department of Transportation disputed the findings, saying auditors should have included costs such as road construction bond payments, snow removal and other safety upgrades required by the federal government when they calculated the amount spent on “direct road construction.”
Spokeswoman Jae Miller said about 75 percent of the Road Fund goes toward IDOT expenses. She said that’s a “significant increase” over previous administrations.
The Road Fund’s revenues come from fuel taxes, motorist fees such as vehicle registrations and titles, and federal stimulus funds.
Lawmakers requested the audit last year amid questions about whether the money was being diverted to other areas of the state budget. Now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, for example, used the fund to help pay for a summer jobs program in 2008.
Tuesday’s audit found overpayments from the Road Fund to the state’s health insurance and worker’s compensation funds.
It also revealed that the Secretary of State’s office didn’t deposit the full $48 for each certificate of title into the Road Fund, as required by statute. The Secretary of State’s office said there are conflicts in state statute that make it unclear how much money should go to the Road Fund.
Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington said the audit confirmed suspicions that taxpayers are being “cheated” out of road investments and that there’s “no rhyme or reason” to how the money is being spent.
“My hope is that those in the General Assembly who have districts that rely on (the money) for infrastructure improvements take heed and begin holding this administration accountable,” Brady said.
Miller said the Quinn administration has invested a record $20 billion in the state’s transportation system since 2009.