FILE - IL House Minority Leader Jim Durkin 4.10.18

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, speaks at a press conference in Springfield, Tuesday, April 10, 2018.

A group of Republican lawmakers called out party leaders for backing a measure to double the state's gas tax and hike vehicle registration fees to pay for statewide road projects.

Eight members of the House criticized GOP leaders in an open letter published Wednesday.

"It is especially discouraging to see many Republican leaders not only vote for these tax increases, but then promote false narratives that are constantly perpetuated by the tax-and-spend Democrats in order to excuse their votes," the group wrote in the letter. "To hear some Republican leaders talk about how we have to raise taxes because Illinois taxpayers don’t currently pay enough to cover our spending programs is shocking. These are Democrat talking points and they are embarrassing."

A spokeswoman for Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, referred questions about the criticism to a statement Durkin made at the close of the legislative session. 

"As I’ve said before, we can get great things done for Illinois families as long as we respect the principles and priorities of each caucus," Durkin said in the statement. "In doing so, we have passed historic education reform, two bipartisan, balanced budgets and now important reforms that will grow jobs. I am proud to have worked with the legislative leaders and the Governor to finally do what’s right for Illinois families and businesses."

Durkin's statement did not mention the gas tax hike, vehicle registration fees or the infrastructure projects those revenue sources are expected to fund.

State Reps. Blaine Wilhour, R-Effingham; Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville; David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills; Darren Bailey, R-Xenia; Chris Miller, R-Oakland; Allen Skillicorn, R-Crystal Lake; Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur; and John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, signed the statement. Republicans hold 44 seats in the Illinois House. 

The eight Illinois House Republicans stopped short of asking for a change in leadership. 

"We are willing to work alongside the Republican leaders as we tackle tough issues in the future, but these kinds of policies were exactly what our voters sent us to Springfield to oppose," they wrote. "Illinois taxpayers deserve political leadership that is willing to find solutions that deal with the real underlying issues."

An email to the Illinois Republican Party seeking comment wasn't immediately returned. 

A day after the legislative deadline to pass bills with simple majorities, the House waived rules and immediately voted on an amendment to Senate Bill 1939 to fund roads, bridges and rail projects with a 19-cent gas tax hike, which would bring the state’s total gas tax to 38 cents a gallon. The state's vehicle registration fee would also increase, from $98 a year to $148 a year, if Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the measure.

Twenty Republicans voted in favor of the infrastructure bill. Seven Democrats voted against it.

The tax hikes will pay for $45 billion in new spending for roads, bridges and buildings across the state.

Regional Editor

Brett Rowland has worked as a reporter in newsrooms in Illinois and Wisconsin. He most recently served as news editor of the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He previously held the same position at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb.