DuPage County doubles gas tax

The DuPage County Board has approved a doubling of the 4-cents-per-gallon gas tax in response to revenue losses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The new rate goes into effect July 1. The existing rate has been in place since 1989.

According to county transportation officials, gas tax proceeds have fallen nearly 25% since April as more people have been staying home and working remotely. The gas tax increase is expected to raise $16 million more a year for an aging system of roads and bridges.

County board members expressed their concerns in a financial committee meeting ahead of the Tuesday vote.

"It sounds great to have $350 million of additional revenue over a 20-year period," said outgoing financial committee chairman Robert Larsen of Wheaton, the lone "no" vote.

"That's not revenue coming out of nowhere," Larsen said. "That's coming out of the pockets of the taxpayers."

"This board should be considering that incremental increases are far easier than a 100% increase," said board member Mary Fitzgerald Ozog of Glen Ellyn. "Frankly, I hope we're going to be getting an infrastructure bill after Jan. 20 when the new administration takes over. We've been promised one for the past four years."

Board member Brian Krajewski of Downers Grove emphasized, "This is more of a user-based tax," so "the people who use the roads are paying for it."

Director of Transportation Christopher Snyder noted that under state law, any transportation taxes must be used exclusively for transportation.

In a previous transportation meeting, Snyder said most of the county's 50 bridges are 21 to 30 years old and that many roadways are almost exceeding their useful life.

"It's going to mean jobs for DuPage County, and these are necessary things," said board member Donald Puchalski of Addison. "We can't have our roads and structures fall into disrepair."

Board member Dawn DeSart of Aurora echoed Puchalski by emphasizing properly maintained roads and bridges are vital for public safety. But she was also conflicted.

"A lot of people who could least afford paying more for gas are the ones going to work right now - the nurses, the nursing assistants, the grocery store workers," DeSart said. "Many of the other higher-paid positions are working remotely."

According to Snyder, state legislation in 1989 previously only allowed DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties to impose a local motor fuel tax. Later legislation allowed Will and Lake counties to join those ranks with a 4-cent-per-gallon tax.

DuPage was able to double its gas tax because of state legislation passed last year.

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