Bourne: Infrastructure Investments Will Spur Economic Growth

Throughout my short time in the legislature, I’ve been a consistent critic of the culture of unchecked spending in Springfield. I’ve voted against wildly out-of-balance budgets, an income tax increase, and the push to amend our constitution to allow for a graduated income tax.

Similarly, I have supported efforts to restrain spending, and I’ve fought to limit unfunded mandates that drive up costs at the local level. The American Conservative Union has annually ranked me as one of the most conservative legislators at the State Capitol – in part, for my advocacy on behalf of taxpayers. Illinoisans deserve accountability on how taxpayer dollars are spent and ironclad assurances that those dollars are spent on their intended use.

That’s why, in 2016, I voted to add the “Transportation Lockbox” amendment to our state’s constitution, as did nearly 80% of voters in the district I represent. After years of sweeps from the Road Fund and deteriorating infrastructure, voters finally said enough. This amendment means that taxes paid at the pump will be spent on roads. Period.

I’m a big believer that state government needs to get back to its core functions, including high quality public education and well-maintained infrastructure. Illinois has recently made big strides in education, but our infrastructure, on the other hand, has been neglected for years. Unsurprisingly, the poor condition of our roads is one of the most common requests I receive from constituents. From massive potholes on I-55 that have caused car damage, to highways that flood, and to frontage roads that aren’t fit for school busses, we know our local infrastructure needs are great.

Recently, Illinois has only been able to afford band-aid fixes for our crumbling roads and bridges. That changed last week when a bipartisan supermajority of lawmakers voted to enact long-term, sustainable funding for our state’s infrastructure. That capital plan will deliver billions of dollars of investment in our state and local roads and bridges.

But this critical investment comes at a cost. I was one of eighty-three lawmakers who voted to raise the motor fuel tax, commonly referred to as the gas tax, for the first time since 1990. As a conservative Republican, I have never voted for a tax increase, but 1990s-level gas tax revenue was no longer sufficient for 2020 infrastructure needs. This increase will help support more than the state infrastructure needs – as over half of our motor fuel taxes are sent back to counties, municipalities, and townships to improve their roads and bridges.

If I had my way, state government would function much differently, but I realize that I am a member of the super-minority party. Even though I’m not steering policy in Springfield, that doesn’t mean I can’t affect policy. Rather than sitting on the sidelines as the majority party steamrolled their way through the legislative session, we saw infrastructure investment as an opportunity to find common ground and compromise. House Republicans fought to have additional taxes like a tax on streaming services like Netflix, satellite tv and alcohol excluded. We also got pro-business reforms included in the package that block regulations and provide tax incentives for job growth. This plan is better for taxpayers and better for Illinois’ business climate because we, as House Republicans, were willing to negotiate.

Everyone in Central Illinois depends on well-maintained roads to travel to work, drive our families where they need to go, and get agricultural products to market. No trains, metro lines, or bike lanes will suffice. In short, good roads are vital. Voting to raise the motor fuel tax was a difficult decision, but ultimately, I know this is an investment we have to make to help our rural economy thrive.

This can all be boiled down to a constituent question I’ve received countless times – “When will we fix our d@#% roads?” My answer – with this capital plan, now we will. The sustainable and reliable investments made in this capital plan will help ensure that our federal tax dollars continue to improve our roads here in Illinois, provide thousands of good-paying construction jobs for years to come, and make sure that Illinois keeps our status as the nation’s transportation hub.