Champaign City Council approves 4-cent-per-gallon gas tax

Champaign City Council approves 4-cent-per-gallon gas tax

CHAMPAIGN — Saying the money will start to chip away at $60 million worth of desperately needed road improvements, the city council on Tuesday night voted to begin collecting 4 cents per gallon of gas sold in Champaign starting in May.

The new tax had both its advocates and detractors, but a slim 5-4 majority of council members ultimately decided that crumbling city streets need more funding.

"For me, this is a matter of a shared sacrifice," said council member Tom Bruno. "It's a matter of personal responsibility."

Bruno was the first council member to begin circulating a petition to get the discussion about a 4-cent tax rolling last year. Officials expect the new revenue to total about $1.5 million per year, all of which is required by ordinance to fund transportation improvements.

Bruno called it a jobs bill — work for local laborers and local paving companies.

"This is building our roads and highways for our children and our grandchildren," he said.

A key project for the city in the near future is improvements to the bridge carrying Windsor Road over Interstate 57. The Illinois Department of Transportation has said it is willing to improve the bridge and complete the overpass with sidewalks and bicycle lanes, but the approaches on either side are the city's funding responsibility.

That's just one in a long line of road projects the city has lined up.

"While those expenses are rising, we have every indication that help from Springfield, the home of the unfunded mandate, is not going to be forthcoming," said council member Michael La Due, who voted for the tax.

Representatives of two local paving companies that stand to get those contracts spoke in favor of the tax Tuesday night.

"We have a huge investment in the city street network, and our delayed maintenance will make it cost more in the long run," said John Peisker, vice president of O'Neil Brothers construction company.

The tax also had opponents in the audience Tuesday night. Mark Gray, a regional director for Thornton's, said it will hurt businesses and drivers alike.

"It does drive the price of gasoline up," he said.

And council member Will Kyles, who had voted in favor of the tax in an informal straw poll last year, switched his vote Tuesday night.

"I'm not against the actual idea of better roads, it's the timing of it all," Kyles said.

Kyles said he sees other city taxes and fees rising — like a coming stormwater utility fee — and also sees residents struggling with the economy.

"It's one priority at a time in this type of environment," Kyles said.

Council member Kyle Harrison changed his vote, too, from a "no" last year to a "yes" Tuesday night. He said he has trouble wrapping his head around that $60 million backlog and the magnitude of unfunded road improvements, but the 4-cent gas tax will be a start.

"We're trying to throw a toothpick at a bear here," he said.

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ronaldo wrote on February 08, 2012 at 8:02 am

I promised to quit buying gas in Urbana a year or two ago when they added a $0.03/gal. tax, and to this day I've never bought gas in the city of Urbana.  Now Champaign does the improbable - out-taxes the overtaxed Urbana.

Sorry, Donny, I'm taking my business to Savoy, the county, or I'll plan my fill ups when in other small towns.  Do you have career plans after the next election?

787 wrote on February 08, 2012 at 8:02 am

Savoy will likely have *plenty* of gas to sell...





Murphy USA (@ Wal-Mart)

cretis16 wrote on February 08, 2012 at 8:02 am

"For me, this is a matter of a shared sacrifice," said council member Tom Bruno.

HA.....C/U is full of 100K people who think nothing of slugging some more taxes on the people. What's a few bucks to these wealthy lawsuit lawyers driving the new cars. Unless you are employed by government or make 100K, best bet is to move outta town.

johnny wrote on February 08, 2012 at 5:02 pm

For years, I've wondered how Bruno wins re-election.  He's never even pretended to listen to his constituents.

MissM wrote on February 08, 2012 at 9:02 am

I hit a pothole on a city road that was so large and deep it popped my tire. Our roads are deteriorating quickly. I am more than willing to pay approximately 50 cents per fill-up to avoid that awful experience again.

JK wrote on February 08, 2012 at 2:02 pm

The city should be paying for that just as they do in San Diego!

Politicalchemy wrote on February 08, 2012 at 9:02 am

While I'm no fan of creeping taxes either, choosing to drive out of Champaign to save 50 or 60 cents on a fill-up makes little sense. If you drive a car with a 16-gallon tank that gets 20 mpg in the city, for instance, a 3-mile round trip erases any savings you realize. This was obviously a difficult vote for the Council, but it was an important one. Our streets require maintenance. I would be interested in ideas about alternative sources of funding but not very attentive to arguments against the need for such maintenance.

meemaw wrote on February 08, 2012 at 1:02 pm
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Gas is going up (again...still...continually) this summer.  Why add insult to injury?  Some of us are barely making ends meet as it is.  I will not be buying gas in Champaign.  I'm very disappointed that this decision was made. 

Fedupwithstatereps wrote on February 08, 2012 at 1:02 pm

It's an unfortunate necessary evil.  But lucky for me I live out of town and can fill up at my small community Casey's General Store where I will be doing it from now on. 

JK wrote on February 08, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I too will be shopping for gas outsie of the community. The way to fix the roads would be to SIGNIFICANTLY reduce the size and number of EMPTY busses running in Champaign for the convenience of the U of I! That would save us millions and reduce the stress on our roads. The Mayor should be ashamed of himself for following in the footsteps of the Urbanian outback. I applaud those Council members who voted against the proposal. We already pay WAY TOO much in taxes to live here.

bluebell wrote on February 08, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Why are these roads so bad that $1.5 million/year is required to fix them?  I hope someone is looking at the cause of these problems and finding better material and cheaper labor. This is unaffordable.  Illinois is full of lazy, out-of-touch, overpaid politicians.

Batmantis wrote on February 08, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Glad this got through. This is a targeted tax for infrastructure which is essential to keep up the living standards of any community. The idea that people will go miles out of their way to save 4 cents per gallon (in the process wasting the savings they will allegedly reap) is nonesense.

Wake_Up_People wrote on February 08, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Who here actually believes this new revenue will be spent on the roads? Really?? Anybody???

I'm Lovin' It wrote on February 08, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Does anyone who posts here know what backlog means? Are you able to grasp that the current funding is not adequate to perform the repairs you're requesting? Or are you simply more interested in complaining about the roads and don't want any part of paying to maintain and/or repair them? BTW, a friend of mine is a civil engineer (and a conservative) and stated to me that 4 cents/gallons is totally inadequate. $1.5 million is a drop in the bucket.

Aside from that,

Let's put this gas tax increase into perspective, since the local Chamber of Commerce doesn't appear to, or the majority of posters on this site, because FACTS appear to be inconvenient to them:

1. I drive about 20,000 miles per year.

2. Let's say I'm averaging about 23 mpg. That means I buy about 870 gallons of gasoline per year.

3. The 4 cent increase is going to cost me about $34.80 or less than 1 cent per mile driven. I think that is a pretty fair return for being able to fix/repair/maintain the streets and saving wear and tear on my car that is certainly going to cost more then $34.80.

If you're of the "I don't want to pay to fix other people's problems" brigade, consider that $34.80 spread out over others like me is far cheaper than YOU paying to fix only the potholes or problems on streets that YOU drive on. It's called a community. Taxes are the price of a civilised society - they're unable to effectively collect taxes in Somalia and I'm sure you wouldn't want to live there.

mmemartinez wrote on February 09, 2012 at 11:02 am

Ditto this! Also I chose to live in Urbana over Champaign despite the higher taxes because I knew I would enjoy the benefits those higher taxes would bring to me and my community. If you want nice things you have to pay for them and when you use the roads, schools, parks, etc. on a daily/frequent basis then you must expect to contribute to their maintenance. Besides, in the long term it will positively impact your property value so the overall benefit outweighs the minimal cost. 

yasmar62 wrote on February 08, 2012 at 7:02 pm
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I would like to know who  the other yes voting council members are so  we know who to not re- elect.  .

johnny wrote on February 08, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Tom Bruno, Marci Dodds, Kyle Harrison, Michael LaDue, and Mayor Don Gerard.

I'm Lovin' It wrote on February 09, 2012 at 7:02 am

Wow.this reminds me why I don't wrestle with pigs. Some readers should consider improving their reading comprehension skills before replying to facts. Comments like @vnp almost make me forget I'm living in a university town as opposed to a hamlet of 150..

cretis16 wrote on February 09, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Only those people living on public tax dollars would make a statement like..:...I don't have a problem paying taxes." Sure, as long as you are AFSME or one the thousands of desk sitters at U of I.Illinois property taxes are wow outta whack......much like this squeeze on folks. Put down your government checks and come down to the streets...

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 09, 2012 at 3:02 pm

What does a union have to do with a municipal tax increase on fuel?  By the way; it is AFSCME:; not "AFSME".  You left out the county employees.  Property taxes support your local schools, and other community services.  The people who clean the streets maybe union; but they are already on the streets along with the police, and firefighters who are union members also.  This tax increase has nothing to do with unions.  Union members pay taxes also.  Let's all go back to hating the Ruusshens.  Those commie devils......

mmemartinez wrote on February 09, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Wow, that's ignorant. Neither my husband nor I have a problem paying higher taxes. We wanted to live in Urbana and chose to purchase a home there despite the higher property taxes BECAUSE we wanted the benefits that come with those taxes. My husband works in the private sector and as teacher I don't "live" on public tax dollars, I get paid for my work from funds that happen to come from taxes.  And I work hard for every cent I get, thanks.

I would mention that I'm also willing to pay more taxes to help create a universal healthcare system in this country, rather than giving my money to an insurance company which may or may not cover my healthcare needs, but that would probably make your head explode.

cretis16 wrote on February 10, 2012 at 10:02 am

Please mail all those excess dollars you have to www. You can get a whole different perspective when you only have enough dollars for food and rent. This tax hurts......and if you are fortunate to have a nice stash of extra cash...well, I guess you're the lucky ones.