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posted: 8/8/2013 5:00 AM

Fix pensions before altering gas tax

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The July 23 story summarizing the Transportation for Illinois Coalition proposal to raise gasoline prices and vehicle registration to improve roads and bridges misses the point. Worse than that, it is a slippery way of conning the public. When the state says we're going from a 19-cents-a-gallon tax to a 9.5 percent tax, half the driving public doesn't understand the impact. At current levels it is a 19- to 32-cent increase and rising based upon price. This doesn't include federal taxes and sales tax. This amounts to a 68 percent tax increase today, and with $4/gallon gasoline, a 100 percent increase.

This will hit the people least able to afford it hardest: low-skill workers and retirees. As bad as this is, it gets worse. These funds, like most taxes collected today, all go into general fund. As a result, as much as our roads and bridges need work, the money will go to pay current bills, since the state's budget is completely out of whack -- not to mention the $100 billion pension deficit.

This is a big reason why the state's roads got this way to begin with. Funding for roads took a back seat to other squeaky wheels and bills to be paid. Until the state's pension and budget issues are resolved, any discussion about higher fuel taxes for roads should likewise be put in the back seat. Something to remember: All the Illinois lottery funds were to enhance schools, except what happened was prior funding was dropped leaving school budgets no different. The old "bait and switch" was used. Don't let it happen again.

Richard Francke


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