A lawsuit pending against Cook Country that could cost the county as much as $250 million might well set the precedent for similar exposure to the State of Illinois of $700 to $900 million.
As Crain’s reported today, the suit against the county was “filed by a coalition of road builders with tacit union backing, contends the county is improperly diverting to general use taxes on autos and auto-related items such as title transfers and parking garages that are supposed to go solely to transportation-related matters under terms of the 2016 Safe Roads ‘lockbox’ amendment to the Illinois Constitution.” The suit could impound “much, and perhaps almost all, of the $250 million or more the county collects from taxes involving cars and trucks.”
Our sources tell us the state estimates its exposure, if similar claims against the state are filed, would be about $700 to $900 million. That revenue is currently counted in the state’s general fund budget but would be at risk of being diverted solely for use on transportation matters.
The 2016 Safe Roads Lockbox Amendment was pushed by public unions to assure a big chunk of spending goes to projects on which their members get paid.
For some perspective, the total state budget is about $38 billion and Cook County’s is about $5 billion, so the lawsuits represent meaningful numbers.
–Mark Glennon is founder and executive editor of Wirepoints.