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Bill Fleischli: Higher motor fuel tax not needed in Illinois

Fleischli

Fleischli

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Updated: June 5, 2014 6:49AM



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 toward the highest prices in the entire nation.

The plan on the horizon is to raise the motor fuel tax on gas, diesel fuel and gasohol (a motor fuel that is no more than 90 percent gasoline and at least 10 percent denatured ethanol), increase vehicle registration fees and even charge sales tax on services performed on your car.

All drivers in the state would be impacted by this tax hike. We cannot afford this. Too many Illinois families and businesses are struggling to keep their heads above water financially.

We are living in a time when many Illinoisans are paying higher taxes than ever — including the 2011 temporaray income tax increase that Gov. Pat Quinn now wants to make permanent and stretching all the way to our already highest-in-the-region tax on motor fuel.

I hear consistently from people who are astounded at the much-lower gasoline 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 and businesses and Illinois’ economy.

When people bypass Illinois gas stations for those across the river or state line, they often buy add-on items inside the store, costing Illinois sales tax revenue, too.

Clearly the state needs to maintain its roads and bridges, but taxpayers need to be aware of this pursuit of a higher fuel tax. Lawmakers have not proved themselves to be wise stewards of existing transportation tax dollars.

Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland released a report in 2013 that found that in eight of the past 10 fiscal years, the state spent less than half of its dedicated road fund dollars directly on road construction costs. Taxpayers should be outraged by that.

Gas station owners and convenience store retailers are opposed to any plan that would have Illinois drivers paying even more to fill up their tanks. There have not been any votes in the General Assembly on specific plans to raise the motor fuel tax, 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 (7 cents per gallon for diesel, 4 cents for gasoline); $225 million would come from higher vehicle registration and title fees; and $208 million would be produced via taxing automobile services.

While I agree that funding road repair and improvements is important, higher fuel taxes and driver fees does not need to be the solution. Instead, let’s spend the existing money designated for road projects on actual projects instead of diverting many of those dollars from their intended purpose.

Bill Fleischli is the executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association and the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores.



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