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A Road Fund in name only

A state audit revealed that a large amount of Road Fund money is not going toward road construction. No wonder Illinoisans are dodging a lot of potholes this spring.

Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

It has a pretty simple name: the Road Fund.

Money deposited into the state fund should be used mainly for roads, one would think.

But this is Illinois, and the state Senate wanted to be sure. A year ago, the Senate passed a resolution in which a gnawing doubt was expressed:

“Whereas, concerns have been raised that a significant portion of Road Fund receipts are being used for purposes not directly related to road construction.”

The resolution directed Auditor General William Holland to audit the Road Fund.

The results of Holland’s extensive audit were released last week.

The doubting senators, unfortunately, were right.

Holland reported that, in 8 of the past 10 fiscal years, less than half of Road Fund expenditures went for direct road construction costs.

The rest was parceled out to the Illinois State Police, Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Central Management Services, Department of Employment Security, City of Chicago, court of claims, and intergovernmental transfers.

The last we knew, those departments (except Chicago) don’t build and maintain roads. That’s the job of the Illinois Department of Transportation. But somehow, bureaucrats and big wigs have rationalized the use of Road Fund money for non-road construction uses.

Fund sweeps and diversions are nothing new. Still, they break faith with taxpayers – the people who pay motor fuel taxes and license fees that go to the Road Fund. Federal highway transportation dollars also go there.

To be fair, some of the non-road construction expenses are to repay bonds, the proceeds of which paid for road work.

But the audit also revealed overpayments from the Road Fund to state health insurance and worker’s compensation funds. What’s up with that?

Holland’s report called on various state agencies to revise how they handle Road Fund money. All pledged to comply. We hope they do.

The Road Fund spent $25 billion in the past 10 years. Of that, $6.2 billion, or 25 percent, was spent by agencies other than the Department of Transportation.

Think about that as you dodge the bumps and potholes on Illinois’ crumbling highways.

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