Opponents of a gasoline tax increase in Champaign got a reprieve.
Local taxpayers dodged a tax hike bullet Tuesday when the Champaign City Council decided to wait until February to vote on a proposed 4-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline.
Council members previously had indicated by a 5-4 majority that they supported the plan. But an absence of council members at Tuesday's meeting — including pro-tax council member Michael LaDue — prompted the remaining members to defer the vote until everyone can be present.
The delay is fine, but defeating the tax would be better. A tax hike, particularly one that is so regressive, is just plain obnoxious in these difficult economic times.
City officials are pressing for the increase because tax revenues are down, and they contend that the estimated $1.5 million in new income generated by the increase would allow the city to catch up on backlogged road improvement projects.
That may well be true. But why should the needs of government be given a higher priority than those of business owners or private citizens?
Almost everyone is suffering during this seemingly endless economic slowdown. Among those suffering most are low-income earners who would feel the effect of a gas tax hike more acutely than middle- or upper-income earners.
The proposal has generated some serious push-back from dissenters.
The Champaign-Urbana Fuel Retailers have attempted to generate public pressure on council members through a series of newspaper advertisements. The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, although somewhat belatedly, has come out in opposition.
But it's the voice of ordinary people that will have the greatest impact on the votes of council members.
As things now stand, the council will approve this measure by a 5-4 vote. The vote total won't change between now and February if citizens remain silent. Let your council members and Mayor Don Gerard know how what you think. Otherwise, be prepared to pay more for gasoline.