Doubled state gas tax just a start. New state law will cost you in other ways, too

State law will cost drivers in other ways, too

  • Gas was selling for $2.49 a gallon at the Costco in St. Charles on Friday. State gas taxes are set to double July 1.

      Gas was selling for $2.49 a gallon at the Costco in St. Charles on Friday. State gas taxes are set to double July 1. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

  • Mike Alvarez of West Chicago pumps gas at the Speedway gas station in West Chicago. "What can you do?" he said of Illinois' doubling its gas tax July 1. "You just have to keep working."

      Mike Alvarez of West Chicago pumps gas at the Speedway gas station in West Chicago. "What can you do?" he said of Illinois' doubling its gas tax July 1. "You just have to keep working." Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Sheep, goats, donkeys and an assortment of other barnyard animals walk along O'Hare International Airport property, where their grazing cuts down on mowing costs and discourages birds like geese, which are a danger to aircraft.

      Sheep, goats, donkeys and an assortment of other barnyard animals walk along O'Hare International Airport property, where their grazing cuts down on mowing costs and discourages birds like geese, which are a danger to aircraft. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

Location is everything when it comes to who pays the most in gasoline taxes to fix the state's highways and transit system.

Lawmakers in early June agreed to double the 19-cent state motor fuel tax on July 1 to fund a $33 billion transportation program. But that's just the beginning of a series of possible additional gas tax increases.

New laws allow higher county gas taxes and wider use of local gas taxes, though some suburban leaders are saying thanks, but no thanks -- for now.

The changes mean taxes could account for as much as 91 cents of the price of a gallon of gas in the suburbs, with a little variation depending on the town and county where it is purchased.

Also, the state gas tax now will rise annually starting in 2020, without lawmakers having to vote on the yearly increases.

Lawmakers hailed the increase as a needed remedy for the state's inadequate road construction budget.

Gasoline retailers claim it will put more people on the roads -- as they head across state borders to fuel up.

"We're an endangered species," said Bill Fleischli, head of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association, who is certain higher gas prices will send drivers to Indiana and Wisconsin service stations.

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Under the new law, DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties now are allowed to increase their motor fuel tax from 4 cents to 8 cents a gallon and use the money for highways and roads.

"I don't believe our transportation committee and board would be in favor of that for the time being, especially when the state tax has more than doubled," said Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen, a Republican.

McHenry County Chairman Jack Franks, a Democrat, agreed. "It's not my position to raise taxes," Franks said, noting he hadn't discussed the idea with his board yet. "I have never voted for a tax or fee increase and just reduced the court fees at the county."

DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin said the capital bill will offer sufficient road funding. The higher gas tax limit "is a tool in our toolbox," the Republican said. "It's a program we can pursue in the future, but we do not have any plans to do so at this point in time."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lake and Will don't have county gasoline taxes but were similarly authorized to impose a tax of up to 8 cents per gallon. Lake County commissioners will discuss that topic next week.

Another change is that any town in Cook County now can charge a 3-cent local gas tax that would be collected by the Illinois Department of Revenue. Now, only home-rule towns in Illinois can collect a local gas tax, without a state-imposed cap.

The legislation adds complexity to an already bewildering system, said Republican state Rep. Grant Wehrli of Naperville, who voted against the measure. Lawmakers were "hamstrung by time we got to review and question the bill," he said.

Wehrli deplored the law's "double taxation," with sales taxes applied after most other fees are added. However, he said the new law does a better job of channeling gas-related taxes into transportation and not the state's general fund.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

To learn about your town's taxes, go to mytax.illinois.gov.

One more thing

The state's new motor fuel tax of 38 cents a gallon will be tied to the Consumer Price Index effective July 2020. That means every March, the Illinois Department of Revenue will use federal inflation data from the previous 12 months to set a new tax rate to begin in July, agency spokesman Sam Salustro said. For example, the recent 12-month average increase in the CPI in the Midwest was 1.8%, which would result in a new gas tax of 38.7 cents, in theory.

You should know

A decision on the Illinois Tollway's role in extending Route 53 north could come soon, Executive Director Jose Alvarez said last week. The concept has torn Lake County apart. Supporters promise economic development and an end to traffic congestion, while opponents fear it's a boondoggle that would harm the environment.

"An overall decision on the role of the tollway as it relates to Route 53," should come in early July, Alvarez said, adding he wants to meet with as many stakeholders as possible.

Your voice

Responding to last week's column on tightening laws for distracted drivers, Tom Petersen of Elgin says, "Writing tickets will not curb the outbreak of distracted driving. Until somebody comes up with a device or program that disables cellphones while the car's ignition is on, we will continue to see more and more people killed or injured by drivers who refuse to follow the rules."

And reader Robert Brown says lawmakers need to get tough on other distractions like pets in cars. "Drivers who hold their small pet in their lap need to be checked out for mental health problems if they can't drive their vehicle without devoting most of their attention to their pet," Brown says. "The lap dog can obstruct the driver in an emergency situation from being able to even attempt any kind of evasive maneuver."

Gridlock alert

Avoid Dundee Road over the Edens Expressway until Thanksgiving. IDOT is overlaying the bridge on Dundee over the Edens, and that means lane closures.

They're baaack

O'Hare International Airport's relentless team of sheep, goats and a donkey named Jackson is back on the job. The herd of 30 vegetarians will graze all summer on 11.5 acres on the airport's north side along Willow/Higgins Creek. The animal team reduces law-mowing costs and pollution and keeps grass trim and unattractive to birds, like geese, that can pose a danger on airfields. Many of the animals come from local rescue shelters, and they've been grazing since 2013.

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