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updated: 4/1/2014 7:56 PM

Higher gas prices to pay for roads?

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  • A group of Illinois business leaders wants higher gas taxes to pay for fixing roads and bridges.

      A group of Illinois business leaders wants higher gas taxes to pay for fixing roads and bridges.
    Associated Press

 
By Zach White
zwhite@dailyherald.com

Repairing Illinois roads and keeping them in good shape for future generations could come at a higher cost at the gas pump under a proposal by a group of business leaders.

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition wants to raise the price at the pump by 4 cents for motor fuel and by 7 cents for diesel fuel. The plan would extend sales taxes to car-related services like oil changes and washes that aren't taxed now to pay for the massive road and bridge upgrades the group says Illinois desperately needs.

"We are not generating additional revenue each year from the motor fuel tax to keep up with the expense and cost related to construction," said Doug Whitley, co-chair of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition and president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

Now, all gas is taxed by the state at a flat rate of 19 cents a gallon for regular and 21 cents for diesel fuel. That has been the same rate since 1993.

Other business groups are saying gas prices are already too high.

"Consumers are frustrated and gas stations are suffocating -- especially near the borders -- due to Illinois already having the highest fuel taxes in the Midwest," said Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association.

Whitley said the state needs to reorganize old revenue and increase new revenue because the current system, including the motor fuel tax, is not keeping up with the times. Plus, he said, the way gas prices fluctuate, most drivers won't notice a difference.

"The last time we increased motor fuel taxes in Illinois was almost 25 years ago. At that time the miles per gallon usage was about 16 miles to the gallon," Whitley said.

This winter might help get this road repair legislation made into law, he argued.

"Every one of us has driven on a road that's got significant potholes. Some of you may have already had to replace a tire or a rim on your car," Whitley said.

"I can tell you that that costs $550 to replace," he added, saying it's "a lot more money than we're asking for in a given year in increased revenues to help finance our roads."

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