FILE - Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

Illinois lawmakers are looking to free up some money in the state's budget by using some motor fuel tax revenue to cover the cost of emissions testing, but the state’s Constitution may not allow it.

The last change to Illinois’ Constitution was the Illinois Transportation Taxes and Fees Lockbox Amendment, which voters passed in 2016. It forbids lawmakers from using transportation funds for non-transportation spending.

State Sen. Heather Steans’ bill, which passed both houses and now only needs Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signature, would allow for the state’s emission testing done by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to be paid for using revenue generated by the Motor Fuel Tax, the state tax levied on each gallon of gas.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, questioned if the 2016 Lockbox Amendment that bans road funds to pay for non-road fund spending means they can’t move forward with the proposed cost shift.

“If it’s not a violation of the letter of the Constitution, it is most certainly a violation of the spirit of the amendment that the voters voted for,” he said. “They were tired of the General Assembly and governors siphoning dollars off from the motor fuel taxes that they paid, which politicians told them would be spent on roads and bridges and mass transit.”

Steans, D-Chicago, said a legal team had reviewed the proposal.

“Our attorneys have taken a look at this and feels like it totally falls within the requirement of the lockbox constitutional amendment,” she said.

Illinois conducted emissions tests for more than 2 million cars in 2018 with an appropriation of $30 million.

Staff Writer

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.