Architect of Illinois gas tax hike resigns committee chairmanship amid federal probe
State Sen. Martin Sandoval has resigned as chairman of the powerful Illinois Senate Transportation Committee, weeks after federal authorities raided Sandoval’s home and offices as part of an ongoing corruption probe.
The lawmaker credited for Illinois’ massive gas tax hike will no longer occupy the powerful leadership post he used to shepherd that bill to the governor’s desk.
State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, submitted his resignation as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Illinois Senate Democrat spokesman John Patterson confirmed to Springfield blog Capitol Fax.
As committee chair, Sandoval played an integral role in shaping the $45 billion capital plan Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law in June, which doubled the state gas tax and raised a variety of other taxes and fees. The increase raised Illinoisans’ total gas tax burden to third-highest from 10th in the nation.
At the time of Pritzker’s signing, Sandoval’s website boasted, “The $45 billion construction package is the culmination of a three-month negotiation process led by state Sen. Martin A. Sandoval.” An Illinois Policy Institute analysis in July found that waste and pork-barrel spending included in the plan amounted to more than $1.4 billion. In May, the Institute published a report finding lawmakers could have spent $10 billion extra on infrastructure without hiking taxes.
Federal probes into Illinois corruption have included Chicago aldermen, those close to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and state Sen. Thomas Cullerton, D-Villa Park, who faces federal embezzlement charges that state during three years he was paid about $275,000 in salary and benefits but performed little to no work for the Teamsters Union. Cullerton has pleaded not guilty, and while he was removed as chair of the Labor Committee, he remains chair of the Veterans Committee and sub-chair of Utility Rate Regulations.
Confirmation of Sandoval’s resignation as Transportation Committee chair came the same day the Illinois Senate released an unredacted search warrant federal agents served on Sept. 24 before raiding the lawmaker’s Springfield office. The warrant shows agents were seeking information on red-light camera company SafeSpeed and Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, among other individuals and companies.
SafeSpeed, a longtime political donor to Sandoval, was also at the center of a separate raid conducted on the village hall of suburban McCook, where Tobolski doubles as mayor. Tobolski’s county chief of staff Patrick Doherty is a paid consultant for SafeSpeed.
In September, FBI and IRS agents conducted raids on the home and offices of Sandoval as well as government buildings in McCook and two other suburban Cook County villages. The Chicago Tribune reported Oct. 5 SafeSpeed was among the subjects for which federal authorities were seeking information.
In August, a Downers Grove resident added Sandoval as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging the senator had used his position as head of the Transportation Committee to land his son a job at the Regional Transportation Authority, despite lacking relevant qualifications and experience.
Federal authorities have accused neither Sandoval, SafeSpeed nor any of the local public officeholders targeted during the September raids of a criminal offense.