Gas tax hike, other fees would fund Pritzker's $41.5 billion 'Rebuild Illinois' capital plan

SPRINGFIELD - Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday briefed lawmakers on a proposed capital improvements plan that calls for spending $41.5 billion on transportation, education, public health and other infrastructure projects over six years, funded by a host of new or increased taxes and fees.

The proposal, which officials say represents only a "preliminary draft" of what a final capital bill could look like, was shared with legislative leaders early Friday.

"As a result of working group sessions with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle from both chambers of the General Assembly, the administration is working on a preliminary draft of a comprehensive capital plan that will put 540,000 Illinoisans back to work and finally fix our crumbling infrastructure," Pritzker's press secretary, Jordan Abudayyeh, said in a statement. "The administration looks forward to continuing to engaging in productive conversations before the proposal is finalized."

The program, which the administration is branding as "Rebuild Illinois," would combine $17.8 billion in new bonds with $10 billion in federal funding; $7 billion in current, ongoing state revenues; and $6.6 billion in local government revenues and private sources of funding.

Some suburban Republicans pushed back at "massive tax hikes."

It "includes a gas tax increase, streaming tax and real estate transfer tax," state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills said. "We need a capital bill but it should be funded by issuing bonds" supported by future cash flows such as sports gambling revenues.

Sen. Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods was "shocked and disappointed at the proposal" he thinks didn't reflect legislative hearings or closed-door meetings with the governor's office.

"We never discussed something over $40 billion. The size of some of the tax increases are far above anything discussed, specifically with vertical construction," McConchie said referring to schools and public buildings.

Pritzker has suggested raising nearly $1.8 billion per year in new or higher taxes and fees. The largest of those would be raising the state's motor fuels tax from 19 cents to 34 cents per gallon, a smaller increase than has been suggested in other proposals. That would generate an estimated $560 million.

Others include raising registration fees for both traditional and electric vehicles; doubling the tax on real estate transfers of nonresidential property from 50 cents to $1 for each $500 in market value; imposing a new tax of $1 per ride on ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft; imposing a new 7 percent tax on cable, satellite and streaming services; raising the state's liquor gallonage tax; adding a new tax on parking garage fees; removing the sales tax exemption on the value of traded-in property; and dedicating a portion of a proposed video gambling terminal tax increase to the capital plan.

The bulk of the spending - about $28.6 billion, or 69 percent - would be earmarked for transportation projects, including roads and bridges, mass transit, rail and aviation.

Among the major projects listed in the draft plan are $1 billion to improve a portion of Interstate 80 in Will County; $135.4 million to reconstruct the interchange between Interstate 55 and Interstate 72 south of Springfield; and $61.2 million for improvements to a stretch of U.S. Highway 40 that runs through Effingham.

The draft also calls for $5.9 billion, or 14 percent of the total, in spending on education buildings, including $2.4 billion for college and university campuses and $3.5 billion for schools serving pre-K to 12th grade.

The rest of the funding would go toward improving state facilities, environmental conservation projects, broadband deployment, health care and human services projects such as construction of affordable housing, and economic and community development projects.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, issued a statement Friday saying he welcomed Pritzker's proposal but suggested the final bill will likely look different.

"We've been eagerly awaiting a framework from the Pritzker administration," Sandoval said. "As the Senate has gone around the state and led this bipartisan effort, there have been many changes, and I expect many more to come. What you have here is an early draft of what a framework could look like. Going forward, I hope the governor's as committed as I've been to an open, bipartisan process."

Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady, of Bloomington, said in a statement he and members of his caucus who are members of a capital working group received the proposal Friday afternoon.

"We look forward to these discussions continuing as we work toward a plan that addresses our state's critical infrastructure needs and creates jobs," Brady said in the statement.

Daily Herald Staff Writer Marni Pyke contributed to this report.

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