A surcharge for hybrid vehicles?

With poorest of us footing larger piece of road repair costs, it’s only fair.

It should come as no surprise that Illinoisans pay higher gasoline taxes than any other state in the nation, even surpassing California last year. And we all know the extent to which California legislates clean-air initiatives.

According to the U.S. Energy Administration, Illinois at the beginning of 2023 had the highest gasoline taxes of any state. That study was done before two increases in Illinois’ rate last year.

Many of us can remember once upon a time paying 79 cents for a gallon of gas. Today, we pay on average 86 cents a gallon in taxes alone. More if you live in Cook County. More still if you live in the city of Chicago.

It adds up. If you get 20 mpg and drive 15,000 miles per year, that amounts to $645 a year.

Illinois compounds the pain at the pump by applying the motor fuel tax first and then applying a sales tax to the whole thing. Yes, taxing your taxes.

It’s why no suburbanite will willingly purchase gas in the city of Chicago and why collar-county residents will limp along on fumes to the Kane, DuPage or Lake county lines to fill up where gas stations will advertise their prices are lower.

That revenue goes to a variety of places, of course, but chief among them is paying the state’s road budget.

Until 2023, those who drove electric vehicles — many of the costliest vehicles on the market — have not been subject to gasoline taxes. But the General Assembly wized up and started charging another $100 fee on license renewals for EVs, with that money going directly to road maintenance. Electric vehicles tear up roads just as much as those that have internal combustion engines. It was only fair, and a step in the right direction.

But what of the massive proliferation of hybrid vehicles in the U. S.? Cost-conscious consumers know that many hybrid cars and SUVs get about 50% better gas mileage than their traditional counterparts. Over time, the higher cost of a hybrid balances out with the lower fuel costs.

But Illinois does not charge an additional fee at registration for hybrids. Perhaps it should.

Tennessee, which has no state income tax and is loath to tax its residents for much of anything, started adding a $100 surcharge to vehicle registration renewals for hybrid vehicles. For fully electric vehicles, it was $200.

Illinois has the 17th highest median household income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while Tennessee has the ninth lowest. That suggests that more people in Illinois will be purchasing the more expensive hybrid and electric vehicles than residents of Tennessee. And that means a disproportionate number of wealthier people in Illinois are visiting gas stations much less often or not at all.

If tax-hating Tennessee can see the wisdom in having both electric and hybrid drivers shoulder more of the burden of road maintenance, why can’t Illinois?

Being tops in U.S. for gasoline taxes is not where we’d hope to be, but as fewer of the wealthier denizens in Illinois paying for the roads and the likelihood that trucking companies will be transition to electric vehicles soon enough, the largest burden of paying for the roads is placed on the people with older or secondhand gas-powered cars who can least afford it.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.