Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he will make sure new tax revenue from the state's higher gas tax is spent properly after federal agents raided the offices of Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Martin Sandoval as part of a corruption probe.
Drivers in Illinois paid $100 million more in gas taxes in July than they did during the same month in 2018. Motorists in Illinois started paying 38 cents a gallon in state gas taxes on July 1. Lawmakers doubled the state's gas tax this spring as part of a plan to pay for infrastructure projects across the state. The revenue is earmarked for public works projects included in a six-year, $45 billion infrastructure plan. Lawmakers also passed other tax and fee increases along with expanded gambling measures as part of the spending plan for roads, bridges and buildings.
Illinois drivers paid $203.7 million in gas taxes in July, up from $103.9 million during the same month in 2018, a difference of $99.8 million, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue’s most recent data from Monthly Collections Remitted to the State Comptroller.
If Illinoisans had bought the same amount of gas as last year, July’s revenue would have been $207.8 million. Because data for August and September won’t be fully reported until the beginning of November, it's too early to tell if the higher gas tax will affect fuel consumption
In July 2018, motorists bought 418.9 million gallons of fuel. The most recent data from IDOR’s Taxable Gallonage Breakdown for July 2019 showed 399.5 million gallons sold. That number is expected to be updated. Reports in the coming months could provide a better picture of the variation of gallons purchased in Illinois from year-to-year.
The new gas tax revenue has yet to be spent. An official with the Illinois Department of Transportation said it was unclear if work has started on any of the projects in the state's new capital 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."
Some have raised concerns about waste and abuse after federal agents raided the officers of Illinois Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, last month.
On Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Sandoval was involved in the negotiations to double the state's gas tax, but his ideas were ultimately rejected in the final version of the legislation.
“The capital bill is too important,” Pritzker said. “The people of Illinois deserve to know that the capital bill is being executed in the proper way and we do have safeguards in place and we’re continuing to look at upping the ante to make sure those safeguards are as strong as possible.”
State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said people should feel secure.
“The good news is when things like this come to light it shows that the system works,” Syverson said. “If you’re going to break the rules, if you’re going to misuse the public trust, we have ways to find out and there are consequences.”
Syverson said the measure that was ultimately passed was crafted at the leadership level, not the committee level.
Sandoval has not been charged with a crime. He has not spoken publicly since the raids.