Motor fuel tax hike isn't the answer
By Bill Fleischli
A new effort looming in the Illinois Legislature could make driving even more expensive by moving Illinois from the highest fuel prices in the Midwest and vaulting us toward the highest fuel prices in the entire nation.
The plan on the horizon is to raise the motor fuel taxes on gas and diesel, gasohol (a motor fuel that is no more than 90 percent gasoline and at least 10 percent denatured ethanol), plus increase vehicle registration fees and even charge sales tax on services performed on your car.
All drivers of every age from every part of the state would be affected by this tax hike — we cannot afford this.
We are living in a time when many Illinoisans are paying higher taxes than ever before, beginning with costly measures like the 2011 income tax hike and stretching all the way to our already highest-in- the-region taxes on motor fuels. Too many Illinois families and businesses are struggling to keep their heads above water.
I hear from people consistently who are astounded at the much lower gas prices in neighboring states, and I can't blame them for wanting to save extra money by filling up outside Illinois. This hurts Illinois residents, Illinois businesses and Illinois' economy.
When people bypass Illinois gas stations for those across the river, they often buy add-on items inside the store costing Illinois all that tax revenue too.
Clearly the state needs to maintain its infrastructure, but we need to get behind the wheel and stop this push for higher fuel taxes. Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland released a report in 2013 that found the state spent less than half of its dedicated road fund dollars directly on road construction costs in eight of the past ten fiscal years. Taxpayers should be outraged!
Gas station owners and convenience store retailers are opposed to any plan that would have Illinois drivers paying even more to fill up their gas tanks.
There have not been any votes in the Illinois General Assembly on specific proposals to raise the motor fuel tax in 2014, but there is a concerning amount of conversation about the possibility.
Here's an idea of what to anticipate, based on a recent proposal:
— $737 million will be targeted from the wallets of Illinois drivers.
— $304 million would be raised by increasing the motor fuel tax ($.07 more per gallon for diesel, $.04 more per gallon for gasoline).
— $225 million would be raised through higher vehicle registration and title fees.
— $208 million would be raised through service fees on automobile services.
This plan calls for the money generated by these higher taxes and fees to be used on road improvements and repairs. While I agree that funding these road projects is important, higher fuel taxes and driver fees should not be the solution. Instead, let's spend the money designated for road building on actual projects instead of diverting so many of those dollars away from their intended purpose.
Higher taxes on motor fuel does not need to be the solution.
Bill Fleischli is the executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association and the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores (IPMA-IACS).