Lawmaker proposes higher gas tax, car fees for road projects
By Doug Finke
The State Journal-Register|
May 10, 2019 | 8:48 PM
The state gasoline tax would increase by 25 cents per gallon, and car license and registration fees also would increase under a bill to provide an ongoing funding source for state transportation projects.
Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, said the plan will produce $2.4 billion a year for roads, bridges, and public transportation projects that are now being neglected because the state doesn't have sufficient money to pay for all of its needs.
"We haven't updated our gas (tax) since 1990," Sandoval said. "We haven't had a capital bill in over 10 years. It's time to modernize our transportation funding formula to make it sustainable and consistent."
Under Sandoval's proposal, the state gasoline tax would rise from 19 cents a gallon to 44 cents a gallon. It would also be indexed to inflation so that it would continue to rise as prices continue to rise. Also, the proposal includes an option for cities to impose their own three cents a gallon gasoline tax by ordinance.
Sandoval said 29 states have increased their gasoline tax since 2012.
The plan would also increase vehicle registration fees for passenger cars and trucks. Passenger car registration fees will go from $98 to $148. They will also be indexed to inflation.
Drivers' license fees – which vary with a person's age – will double. Title fees will increase from $95 to $155.
"These funding increases currently being debated will provide a steady stream of funding for years to come," said Sen. Donald DeWitte, R-St. Charles, who appeared with Sandoval at Wednesday's news conference.
He said taxpayers should be reassured because the lockbox amendment to the state Constitution assures that the increased revenue will actually be spent on transportation projects.
At the same time, DeWitte said he has not totally signed on to the plan. Like other Republicans, he wants to see changes to Illinois' system of charging the state sales tax on top of the gasoline tax. He also wants to see how the state is going to finance a plan to pay for public building projects in addition to transportation. Sandoval's proposal will only pay for transportation projects.
Jordan Abudayyeh, spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said discussions are ongoing about a capital plan and how to pay for it.
"Bipartisan working groups are discussing various components of a capital plan, including both projects and potential revenue sources, and the administration is working with federal partners and engaging local stakeholders on the needs for their communities as the process moves forward," she said.
Money from the proposal would all be used for pay-as-you-go projects instead of being used to finance a bond issue. Mark Poulos of the Indiana-Illinois-Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting said the idea is to avoid the boom or bust cycle that comes from having a capital plan approved every decade or so.
Sandoval said about 85 percent of Illinois road miles need some kind of attention, a third of the state's bridges are more than 50 years old and mass transit in Chicago faces a 10-year funding shortfall of $2 billion.