Illinois Supreme Court rules Illinois Jobs Now! bill constitutional
By Chrissy Mancini Nichols
Jul 11, 2011
This post first appeared at metroplanning.org
Construction season in Illinois can continue as planned, because on July 11, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the $31 billion state construction bill, Illinois Jobs Now!, reversing an earlier appellate court ruling.
The Illinois Jobs Now! legislation, passed in 2009 by the General Assembly, approved both the $31 billion in infrastructure spending and the revenue increases to pay for it, including video poker, increases in driver's license and license plate fees, and higher taxes on alcohol, candy, soft drinks and beauty products. Plaintiffs contended that the bill violated the state constitution’s “single subject clause,” a provision that prohibits combining various unrelated subjects into the same bill; and imposed an inequitable tax structure on the distribution of alcoholic beverages.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan, arguing for the state, contended that the law’s provisions, both revenue and spending, were constitutional because they all fell under the single capital program. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed. They declared that the capital program’s laws all authorize projects or address funding issues. They also ruled that having a tiered tax structure for alcoholic beverages is legal, as products with higher percent alcohol have historically been taxed at a higher rate to promote more temperate consumption of these beverages.
While a construction-free summer may have been appealing in the short-term for drivers, Illinois stood to lose 439,000 jobs over the next six years. What’s more, the state’s backlog of transportation infrastructure projects is in the hundreds of billions, and further delays would have ratcheted that number up even more. Let the backhoes begin!