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Through the Lens

Safe Roads could devastate IDNR

Tue, November 01, 2016

It’s no secret to anyone that has spoken with me in the last few weeks that I have a bee in my bonnet over the proposed Safe Roads Amendment. This morning I received this very well thought out and to the point missive from Retired Fisheries Chief Debbie Bruce. Ms. Bruce served as Fisheries Chief from 2011 -2015.

“NOVEMBER 8TH SAFE ROADS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PLEASE VOTE NO!!!
HERE’S WHY (SOME EXCEPTS FROM CAPITOL OUTDOORS, OCT. 24TH):

The Safe Roads Amendment, at first blush sounds great, but it will have many unintended consequences!  All transportation-related revenue (gas tax, license plate fees, motor vehicle registration fees, vehicle title transfers) will only be used for roads, streets, highways, bridges and mass transit.  Sounds great, but if passed will remove the funding provided in the Sustainability Bill that you worked so hard to pass in 2012.

This will devastate the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, particularly State Parks and the three State Fish Hatcheries.

• Senate Bill 1566 of the 97th General Assembly (2012-2013), the sustainability bill for the Illinois DNR increased Vehicle Registration fees by $2 per year (amounting to $20 million annually).  This revenue funds State Parks Staff and is helping to fix crumbling park infrastructure.  Loss of this funding will mean layoff of DNR personnel and closure of many state parks/conservation areas.

• In addition, fees collected on vehicle title transfers provide funding for the Illinois Fish Management Fund ($1.7 million/yr.)  and for trail development and maintenance in our state parks/conservation areas.  Loss of the Illinois Fish Management Fund will potentially mean our three state fish hatcheries will be closed.  At a minimum it will reduce or eliminate the production of Salmon or Trout for Lake Michigan, Muskie, and up to 13 other fish species stocked into State and Public Lakes.  Loss of this funding will also result in a reduction of the Catchable Trout Program and the Urban Fishing Program throughout the entire state.  Loss of funds to the Parks and Conservation Fund will greatly impact trails, including bike trails, and maintenance.

THE PROPOSED FISCAL YEAR 2017 BUDGET FOR DNR DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY PROVISIONS FOR REPLACING THIS LOST FUNDING FOR FISHERIES AND STATE PARKS.  THE FACT THAT THE DNR IS ALREADY OPERATING WITH ONLY 50% STAFFING IS A TRAVESTY.  DO NOT ALLOW THE PROPOSED SAFE ROADS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PUT OUR STATE PARKS, TRAILS, AND STATE FISH HATCHERIES IN GREAT PERIL.  STATE LEGISLATORS ALREADY HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE ROAD FUNDING A PRIORITY IF THEY SO WISH. 

VOTE NO ON THE PROPOSED SAFE ROADS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ON NOVEMBER 8th AND ASK ALL YOUR FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME VIA E-MAIL, FACEBOOK, ETC.”

 

I could not agree with Ms. Bruce more on this issue and I implore all sportsmen and women in IL to take a very long hard look at what we stand to lose should this amendment pass. We fought to hard and too long for the Sustainability Bill, to see those much needed dollars simply be locked up and spent in a way that no one could have envisioned. These funds were never intended for use for highway projects, yet that’s exactly what will happen if this amendment passes.

Our IDNR is already struggling, let’s not vote for an amendment that could be it’s death knell.

Comments

Why didnt the DNR voice their concern with this amendment in the spring when it was being packaged?  Hard to fight for someone who is not willing to fight for themsevles.  DNR leadership should have been all over this.

Posted by buckbull on November 02

BB, I agree,the Director’s office should have been all over this, from DAY ONE…issuing press releases, doing interviews, etc.  It’s sad that this raid on already depleted IDNR funding is just hitting the media days before the election, when many have already voted.

Posted by riverrat47 on November 03

The sustainability legislation has had this hanging over it head from the start !! We only knew it would be no time before someone figured a way to cut into those monies, that’s what those people in Springfield do best, so no surprise. This will pass, because way more people drive cars & trucks, than hunt or fish, plus the whole idea of spending money upon what it was intended for in the first place is very appealing to many citizens, especially the citizen of this state.

There were many in the outdoor community that supported the sustainability efforts, but many also thought it didn’t go far enough, and left an avenue open for the legislators to take monies away once the sustainability funds kicked in. The mind set of your getting X amount of funds here, so we will take Y amount away in general revenue funds, because we believe you only need Z amount of funds to operate upon. The old give and take move that legislator’s are so good at.

I have a question for everyone, why should any state agency be collecting monies for another state agency ?? I never could understand that concept of thinking, but then again I don’t have an office in Springfield. I think its time for the DNR to look at what other states have done, and try to move forward to securing funds on its own terms via the resources they have available. Might take a little thinking outside the box, but it can be done, yes it will take work.

RRT

 

 

 

Posted by Ringtailtrapper on November 05

Question.  I have Sportsman Series license plates.  If this passes as expected, is there any sane reason to retain them at renewal?

Posted by Del Roy on November 07

Del Roy, My guess is they my not even offer them again. I don’t think even a state agency is allowed to sell something to someone under false pretenses, and if they kept the monies from those sales that’s what it would be. The license plates deal is a voluntary program, with people electing to pay more for their plates in order to support certain things, so the monies collected by IDOT via this manner are already dedicated funds, and have nothing to do with monies collected from fuel taxes, or federal highway grants, or any other means by witch tax dollars come into the IDOT. I think the real concern is the $2.00 that the DNR gets from the sale of every license plate within the state, and yes that very well could be in jeopardy.

I understand why people voted in favor of this, because nobody likes to have monies ear marked for one thing disappear to another cause. I drive on Illinois roads, and completely understand why people want our highways taken care of. This type of action resonates a whole other problem, and one of way more concern than this topic, and that is how our legislators spend, and handle our states budget. We should not even have to think about were the highway money is going, or wildlife money either, but guess what we do. The inability of those in Springfield to somehow bring the financial concerns of this state under control is ridiculous, and embarrassing. The truth of the matter is this type of action should never had been needed in the first place, but guess what it is now.

RRT

Posted by Ringtailtrapper on November 11

The amendment passed 80-20.

Posted by buckbull on November 11

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