Tax on mileage could prevent gas tax increase

  • A new tax would charge Illinois drivers by the mile.

    A new tax would charge Illinois drivers by the mile. Associated Press File Photo

By Mary Hansen
Updated 4/13/2016 7:46 PM

A proposal that would use devices to track drivers and tax them by the mile could be the alternative to a 30-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax and 50 percent hike in registration fees, according to infrastructure experts who testified at a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Illinois has few options of how to raise $43 billion over the next 10 years to cover maintenance for its aging roads and bridges, said Jim Reilly, who works with the Metropolitan Planning Council.


"We have a fiscal crisis in the state, but we also have a physical crisis in the state," Reilly said, referencing the disrepair of the state's roads.

An Illinois Senate committee Wednesday took testimony on Senate President John Cullerton's plan to charge a 1.5 cent-per-mile tax on driving in an effort to combat declining revenue from gasoline taxes. Drivers would get a refund of gas taxes they pay at the pump.

"Long term, because of fuel efficiency and electric cars, as Sen. Cullerton has observed, we can't just depend on the gas tax, as it's been," Reilly said. "We need to begin taxing at some point, as soon as we can, on vehicle miles traveled."

Cullerton's plan would include a proposal that would give drivers three options of how to pay a mileage tax.

Drivers could have a device that tracks the miles through geolocation technology, charging only for the miles driven on public highways and roads.

Alternatively, they could have an odometer tracker, which reports only number of miles driven, not where. The downside to this, notes Susan Martinovich of CH2M, an environmental and engineering consulting firms, is that drivers would be charged for miles driven out of state.

Finally, Illinoisans could opt out of installing any devices and pay a flat mileage tax of 1.5 cents per mile for 30,000 miles.

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