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.