License plate fee hike on way to Quinn

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois state parks and natural areas should receive an infusion of money for improvements under legislation approved and sent to the governor's desk on Wednesday.

The program will cost Illinois motorists another $2 a year on their now-$99 regular license plate stickers. The fee increase, approved by state senators 39-11, is expected to raise as much as $20 million a year, half of which is to go to repairs and maintenance projects and the other half into staff.

"Passage of this bill will help us hire critical staff to maintain state parks, fix aging infrastructure, speed up regulatory functions and make a bigger difference in the lives of everyone we serve," said Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller in a statement.

The DNR has been especially hard hit by the state's budget crisis, losing about a third of its employees and more than half of its operating budget in the last 10 years.

Area senators were split on the fee increase (SB 1566) with Democrat Mike Frerichs of Champaign and Republican Shane Cultra of Onarga voting yes, and Republicans Bill Brady of Bloomington and Dale Righter of Mattoon voting no.

The House approved the increase last May, 61-56. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he supports the increase.

"I think both parties realize that if we want to protect our environment and our natural resources, this is something that we needed to do. That's why you saw it pass with overwhelming bipartisan support," Frerichs said. "People who support our state parks, who support our natural environment, who are avid sportsmen, they've all come out and said they support this. It's a bill that was supported by both the Sierra Club and the coal industry. You had a wide, diverse coalition of supporters."

Cultra said he backed the increase because "it's a user's fee. People who use the parks will pay."

He said "I don't think there's any doubt the money was needed by the DNR. They've been decimated by cutbacks."

Cultra said he hopes the money from the license fee increase ends up with the agency.

"Whether that means they'll actually get the money, this might generate some money and the Legislature could decide not to put as much money in next year," said Cultra, who is leaving the Legislature in January, after losing in a Republican primary election last March.

Comments

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dw wrote on November 29, 2012 at 1:11 am

Good riddance to Cultra as he doesn't understand what a user's fee is:

"it's a user's fee. People who use the parks will pay."

Wrong! It's a tax on use of one thing (automobiles) to pay for another thing (state parks and recreational areas).  People that drive cars will pay for people who use the parks.  If you want the people who use the parks to pay, then you charge at the entrance to the parks, not at the DMV.  This also allows you to make money off of out-of-staters that use our parks. 

I'm in support of (but very rarely use) our State Parks.  I'd pay $5-10 a year to support them.  But this style of taxing one, unrelated thing to pay for another makes for a very convoluted tax code.

It would've been nice to have some input in the article from the senators that voted no as to their reasons.

militantlibertarian wrote on November 29, 2012 at 1:11 am

I dont care if its 2 dollars or not, all Quin and these morons in office want to do is increase fees on the Illinois citizens. The above poster is right I will get stuck paying 2 more dollars for parks even if I dont use them, so i disagree with increasing DMV fees. They raised income taxes 66% and this state is still broke. Until the people of this state elect better leaders we will just live in the Land of High Taxes and Fees.

opinionated8 wrote on November 29, 2012 at 7:11 am

You're completely right, militiant. This money will again end up in their pockets, take from those of us who work 40 hours a week, 360 some odd days a year. Once again they're helping themselves instead of us working people. I wish we could put normal tax paying citizens in office (some who would work for free) to get these yo-yo'a backt to reality and earth! Why can't they take a pay cut!?!? How many Illinoisans AND Americans have lost their jobs, homes, etc because of a business closing or downsizing due to the economy among other reasons?

I do not in any way deny that the DNR needs a funding source. Why can't we take $10 K from each of their salaries? That would be a big help to them!!

Tutone wrote on November 29, 2012 at 5:11 am

I'm willing to bet this "increased revenue" goes towards State pensions.  The Parks will never see a penny of the money.  Just like the increase on State Income Tax, not a penny went towards debt reduction.  all towards Pension Funds. 

 

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Tutone;  Read, read, read the article.  I wish that it was going to the owed pension debt; but it is not.  I agree with the other comments, except yours.  I would rather see park licenses sold for $5 a year to maintain the parks.  It would be just like a fishing license.  I don't fish; but if I choose to fish, I would buy a license.  The same concept would apply to the parks. 

By the way; debt reduction includes the "Pension Funds".

Tutone wrote on December 04, 2012 at 9:12 am

Sid, i did read.  However, reading doesn't always answer the questions.  Ask Dan Rutherford, State Treasurer of Illinois, and he will tell you "not a nickel of that State Income Tax raise went to paying off State Debt".  This article does not tell you that tho but that was the answer he gave in September when I talked to him.  Yes, pensions can be considered as debt but as a non public employee who does not work for the State I would much rather see that money go to paying over due bills for goods/services the State has already received so that those businesses may stay IN business.   This will allow them to continue to pay taxes and provide employment to residents who also will pay taxes.  Just curious, are you on the State Pension Plan? 

As for user fees I'm all for them.  Let those who use the services pay for them. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on December 05, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Tutone;  Did you ask flashy Dan Rutherford how much of the tax increase went to paying the pension debt?  The tax increase was used for pork barrel projects including tax breaks to corporations, and grants for indoor volleyball courts and swimming pool features.  Your opinion on how the tax money should be used is not considered by the legislature, and governor.  Opinions are like noses.  Everyone has one. 

I will answer your personal question regarding my income.  Yes, I worked 40 plus years in a profession assisting others as a state employee.  I do receive a pension.  My pension is protected by the State of Illinois Constitution, and contract law.   I earned it.  I paid into it even though my employer the State of Illinois did not.  Some people feel that public employees are not entitled to a pension.  Like I said: opinions are like noses; everyone has one.

What is your income derived from as an employee?  Baker, banker, farmer,..................?

Now, the article being discussed is regarding a hike on license plate fees going to support the state's parks.  I am glad that you agree on user fees to support the parks.  We agree on something. 

Bulldogmojo wrote on December 03, 2012 at 12:12 pm

How about they go recover the millions of $$ in LINC card money that was charged in other states.

Sid Saltfork wrote on December 03, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I agree with you about that.  If a person leaves the state, no benefits from the state should follow them.  It would be simple enough to do.  It would save millions.  Photo IDs should be put on the card also.