Illinois drivers would have to pay another $2 for their license plate stickers beginning next year under legislation the Senate passed today to help the state take better care of its parks.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn supported the fee hike as a way to bring in more money to fix crumbling roads, leaky roofs and broken toilets in a state park system that has seen its budget cut heavily over the last dozen years.
The extra $2 would push the annual sticker cost for a regular license plate to $101. The fee applies to plates for motorcycles, pickup trucks, vans and passenger cars. It won’t be imposed on commercial or recreational vehicles, however.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago, and Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, passed the Senate overwhelmingly on Wednesday. The House approved it last spring.
The Department of Natural Resources estimated it needs as much as $750 million for repairs. The fee increase is expected to raise $20 million a year. The agency will be allowed to put half that money into construction projects and the rest into staff and programs.
Agency director Marc Miller called the action a “victory for conservation and the environment in Illinois,” saying the move allowed Illinoisans to use parks without having to pay fees at park entrances.
Miller said the agency also is looking at putting together charges and fees for out-of-state visitors to the parks. He cautioned that the money won’t start flowing into the parks system for several months.
The agency’s staffing level has dropped from about 2,600 employees in 2002 to just under 1,200 today, Miller said. The annual budget has dropped from $107 million to $48 million a year.
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