examiner.com | Lisa Madigan wins her Toll Tax increase

The following article in the examiner.com features TUA’s lawsuit against the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.

December 21, 2011. Chicago. Technically, it’s not a tax. The money the people of Illinois pay to use their own highways is actually a user fee. If it were truly a tax, the citizens’ representatives would have had to approve it. Instead, a body of well taken care of bureaucrats, along with the daughter of the most powerful Machine politician in Illinois, plus a judge who owes his career to the fourth most powerful Machine politician in Illinois, each had their own part in the decision to double the toll rates in Illinois.

The Illinois Tollway Act was passed by the Illinois legislature and went into effect in 1953. According to a lawsuit filed by Taxpayers United of America, the law specifically demands that Illinois residents only be forced to pay for the construction of the state’s highway system for 20 years. At that point, the law requires Illinois’ tollways to be converted to freeways and the Illinois Tollway Authority dissolve itself. But that never happened.

Instead of converting the tollways in Illinois into no-cost freeways in 1973 as required, the Tollway Authority has continued to exist, and continued to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in tolls.

This author has spent his life pointing out the bitter irony of the fact that here in Chicago, we call them ‘expressways’ – meaning they are the express route. With the highest speed limits in the state until recently, no intersections and only a handful of on and off ramps, the roadway could have been an impressively fast method to travel long distances in Illinois. But instead, the State riddled the ‘expressway’ with stop signs, insuring never-ending gridlock, traffic jams and fender-benders. Adding insult to injury and like some Medieval highway bandit, the State then demands drivers pay-up some cash to pass through their checkpoint. Some ‘express’ route.

In September, the Illinois Tollway Authority came up with a scheme to double its operating budget and put some people back to work. And unwilling to wait for the massive revenue to begin pouring in on January 1, their plan is to borrow the full amount now and repay it later using the increased revenue from the massive toll increase. Floating even more bonds to get their hands on the money immediately, the taxpayers of Illinois will be paying even more than the toll increase in the form of interest to the states’ borrowers. Funded immediately in the form of bonds, it’s assumed Illinois taxpayers will be forced to pay a higher interest rate than other states, simply due to Illinois’ worst in the nation financial calamity.

Arguing that the Illinois Tollway Authority is operating in violation of the law that created it and that their January 1 toll hike is illegal, Taxpayers United of America filed suit to stop the increase.

Lisa Madigan to the rescue – the bureaucrats’ rescue anyway

In response to TUA’s lawsuit against the rate hike, Illinois Attorney General and daughter of the Speaker of the Illinois House, Lisa Madigan agreed to represent the Tollway Authority in court to fend off Taxpayers United’s suit. Yesterday, the alleged defender of the citizens of Illinois, won her case in defense of the toll increase. On January 1, Illinois toll rates will double.

In response, Taxpayers United of America released a statement titled, ‘No Thanks Lisa‘. In it TUA says, ‘Judge Rita Novak, of the Cook County Circuit Court, granted Lisa Madigan’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that would have stopped the January 1st toll/tax increase. The suit, brought by Jim Tobin, President of Taxpayers United of America, also sought Court declarations that the Tollway Authority is required by law to convert all toll highways to freeways, and to dissolve itself. Lisa Madigan had those parts of the lawsuit also dismissed.’

“Everyone knows, except Lisa Madigan, that we were supposed to be toll free in 1973,” TUA’s Jim Tobin said.

Illinois tollways already have varying rates with the most visually impressive – the Skyway connecting Chicago to Indiana – costing between $3.50 and $23.60 each time a motorist passes through the 7.8 mile stretch of roadway. The average increase for I-PASS users, the electronic RFID system that scans each car equipped with a signal box that must be purchase by each motorist, will be roughly 88 percent. While poor and working class Illinoisians who can’t afford to purchase a box, as well as out-of-state motorists, will continue to pay more than I-PASS users and see their fee go up a whopping 100 percent.

Thanks to former Mayor Richard Daley, as well as his followers in the city’s Democratic Machine, an assortment of powerful politicians hatched a scheme to lease the Illinois Skyway toll system to foreign investors, collect the revenue up front and use it hide a massive yearly budget deficit. Leased to an Australian and Spanish investment group in 2005, Mayor Daley and the city of Chicago received $1.9 billion dollars, and spent much of it just as fast filling budget holes. The deal required Chicago and Illinois taxpayers to forfeit their tollway revenue from the Skyway tolls for the next 4 generations – 99 years.

In rejecting the lawsuit by Taxpayers United of America to stop the doubling of Illinois toll rates in two weeks, the court left open the door for a change of heart. According to the TUA release, ‘The plaintiffs were given permission to file an amended complaint within 28 days. Alternatively, they could appeal within 30 days. The next court date, to advise the Judge which route the plaintiffs have chosen, is set for February 7, 2012.’

Illinois drivers and drivers from neighboring states who would like to show their support for Taxpayers United of America and against Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s defense of the 100 percent tax increase, should visit the TUA website at www.TaxpayersUnitedofAmerica.org.

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