Kane County officials eye unfunded transportation wish list with gas tax increase
Kane County officials began selling the idea of a 2-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase Tuesday by indicating the money will both balance the county's budget and provide a little extra cash for the county's wish list of transportation projects.
The full county board is on track to approve the gas tax increase as part of the 2022 budget next month. The tax will provide about $8 million in new revenue for the county. The user tax is part of a plan to close a $16 million deficit.
Tax increases tend to be unpopular with voters. And 2022 is an election year that will see all 24 county board seats on the ballot, thanks to redistricting. Every "yes" vote for the tax will be campaign fodder for any would-be challengers.
County board member Mike Kenyon told fellow transportation committee members Tuesday he's already hearing from the trucking companies that continue to grow on the northern end of the county.
"The only way they will support this is if the money goes to improve transportation," Kenyon said.
The gas tax increase would pay to improve transportation. But the tax expansion only comes about because the county board's 2022 budget plan shifts more of the annual RTA sales tax income toward general operating expenses.
Still, Kane County Department of Transportation Deputy Director Tom Rickert said the added gas tax would provide a bit more money than otherwise would go to transportation projects.
Rickert pointed to the long-range list of transportation projects the county has identified to address the expected population growth of 233,000 new county residents by 2050. The list of projects KDOT wants to tackle within the next five years is nearly $200 million short in funding.
"This (gas tax increase) will allow us to start addressing a couple of those projects," Rickert said.
The projected population growth will put new pressure on transportation projects that facilitate north-south and eastbound traffic throughout the county and along the Route 47 and Bliss Road corridors.
Officials expect the value of the gas tax increase to diminish as more people convert to electric vehicles. County board members contemplated raising the gas tax by 4 cents per gallon. Slashing two-thirds of the departmental requests for new employees staved off that plan for at least another year.