Unlikely allies backing plan to raise gas tax to fund transportation

Not just one, but two bills seeking to raise the gas tax to pay for transportation are circulating in the General Assembly and could come to a head soon.

Springfield has talked about a capital bill for years and done nothing, but this legislative session might be different with a new governor in office and unlikely support from the tax-averse Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber-backed legislation would raise the gas tax 15 cents, to 34 cents a gallon, and smack drivers with a $50 increase on annual license registration fees, currently $101 for a passenger vehicle. It also would phase out a 5% sales tax on gas purchases and replace that with an additional 10-cent charge per gallon.

This plan in House Bill 3823 is estimated to generate about $2 billion a year for transportation. About 30% of that would go to transit. Of the remainder, 75% - roughly $600 million - would be designated for roads and bridges and 25% would go to help secure loans for projects.

"We believe the transportation infrastructure is the single biggest economic asset the state funds," Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch said. "It's very, very important to the economy. But the investment levels have just been woefully inadequate over years and years and years."

The last gas tax increase was enacted in 1991 and "we've done it with chicken wire and duct tape since then," he said.

A second, competing bill supported by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 also promises nearly $2 billion more for transportation with about $300 million designated for transit. Revenue sources include adding 19 cents to the gas tax for a total of 38 cents and indexing it as of July 1, 2020, so it can rise by a maximum of 1 cent a gallon annually.

The proposal, Senate Bill 103, also would boost driver's license renewals by $30 and registration by $50. It would let Lake and Will counties adopt a local motor fuel tax.

Both plans envision additional fees on electric cars.

The worsening condition of Illinois' roads and bridges "is visible across the state," Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher said. "Band-aids and funding gimmicks have gotten us into this abysmal situation, and we need leadership and decisive action from Springfield."

Not everyone's on board.

"I don't support a gas tax hike," Barrington Hills Republican state Rep. David McSweeney said. "I think that we should use sports gambling revenue for a capital bill."

The capital bill will involve "multiple funding sources," Des Plaines Democratic state Sen. Laura Murphy said. "I will have to see the full proposals."

State Sen. Dan McConchie, a Hawthorn Woods Republican, said "it's too early to know what the final bill will look like. Neither of these have had a hearing."

The legislative session ends May 31. And just so we're clear, sales taxes on gas are 6.25% in Illinois. The Chamber bill would take out about 5% but leave the remainder, which traditionally goes to local governments.

Stop, pop, fly

It's now a trifecta of dentist-challenging delights at O'Hare International Airport. A third Garrett Popcorn Shops location has opened there. The newest shop allows travelers to bring popcorn across the world from Terminal 5 near Gate M12.

Other popcorn stops are at Terminals 1 and 3. Favorites include CaramelCrisp, CheeseCorn and a combo, the Garrett Mix.

Gridlock alert

• You might want to skirt Route 14 between Western Avenue in Des Plaines and Vernon Avenue in Park Ridge until Halloween. IDOT is promising lane closures with a resurfacing and patching project.

• The Illinois tollway is ramping up work on the I-88 interchange with Orchard Avenue in Aurora. Improvements are scheduled on all four legs of the interchange, which means lane closures and delays.

• Wait, there's more. Expect sticky traffic on Route 38 over the Union Pacific Railroad between Elburn and Maple Park starting May 1 as IDOT replaces pavement. Work will wrap up in October.

One more thing

My inbox exploded after last week's column on transitioning driver's licenses to REAL ID status. Travelers will need a REAL-ID-compliant driver's license or state ID card as of Oct. 1, 2020, to board a domestic flight unless they have a passport. Here are some reader questions and answers.

Q. "I just renewed my driver's license and got a regular one. What's the 411 on getting REAL ID?"

A. Drivers can update their license to REAL ID status for a $5 correction fee if they recently renewed. And, "recent" means if your license expires more than a year from the date you apply for REAL ID.

Keep in mind, the Real ID license will expire the same day as the "original" license.

To get REAL ID, you'll need extra documentation like a birth certificate, passport, utility bill and more. For a list, go to

Q. What happens to my documents when I apply?

A. They will be scanned and returned to you while you wait.

Q. What about children on domestic flights?

A. The TSA does not require kids under age 18 to have ID for flights in the U.S.

Got questions or comments about REAL ID or a gas tax? Drop an email to

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It's now a trifecta of dentist-challenging delights at O'Hare International Airport. A third Garrett Popcorn Shops location has opened there.
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