The recent slew of tax and fee increases for infrastructure programs likely won't be the last Illinois taxpayers see.
This summer, drivers started paying higher state gas taxes. Smokers paid higher cigarette taxes. Lawmakers also raised vehicle registration fees and other approved fees. Those measures, along with expanded gambling and sports wagering legislation that hasn't been fully implemented yet, are meant to pay for a $45 billion five-year infrastructure plan.
Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch said state funding is there for five years under the Rebuild Illinois plan. However, he said the federal government, which sends tax dollars to Illinois for infrastructure, wants to see a ten-year infrastructure plan.
“We think there should be different options on the table other than just the gas tax,” Maisch said.
Before the final tax and fee increase package for the Rebuild Illinois program was enacted, some lawmakers had proposed increasing taxes on alcohol. There was also a proposed statewide $1 surcharge for ride-share services like Uber and Lyft. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is considering a similar measure in the Windy City to help address Chicago’s budget gap. She wants that done by Jan. 1.
Maisch has other ideas lawmakers should consider for any future five-year infrastructure plan.
“We think public-private partnerships need to get a lot more attention, things that taxpayers can get behind and support,” he said.
In the first two months of the Rebuild Illinois plan, Illinoisans have paid more than $414 million in gas taxes, $200 million more than the year before, since the state's gas tax doubled to 38 cents per gallon on July 1. The gas tax legislation included a provision that pegged the state's motor fuel taxes to inflation, meaning the state's gas tax will increase each year.
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, wants to repeal the gas tax increase. He said the plan to spend the money was muddy.
“It doesn’t specify what projects it goes to. It doesn’t specify the kind of projects it goes to,” Skillicorn said. “And literally some of the infrastructure projects that some of the villages were asking for were like computer systems and water treatment plants, which have nothing to do with transportation.”
Maisch said the Chamber of Commerce supported the gas tax increase as needed investment in infrastructure. He said the plan was better than what lawmakers had approved in the past.
“This is much more formulaic, must more transparent, and consequently taxpayers should feel better about this program than they have previous programs,” Maisch said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation is still finalizing the program.
“Rebuild Illinois is the largest, most comprehensive capital program in state history, touching every part of Illinois and all modes of transportation, including our roads, bridges, transit systems, bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, airports and waterways,” IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said. “The Illinois Department of Transportation is in the process of finalizing a multiyear program that will detail a transparent timeline for these investments that will improve safety, enhance quality of life and create jobs in our communities.”