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Truckers association warns against gas tax hike without debate

By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — An association for truckers in Illinois expects a gas tax increase to be debated, but it doesn’t want to see the hike rushed through the General Assembly during the lame duck session at the statehouse that wraps up this week.

While no legislation has been filed, Gov. Bruce Rauner and some politicians have said that lame duck lawmakers could spring a gas tax hike at the last minute, but that idea seems to be fizzling out. However, a motor fuel tax increase could dominate the next legislature that’s seated Wednesday. Rauner’s former Transportation Secretary, Randy Blankenhorn, recently said that raising the gas tax would raise money needed to maintain and modernize the state’s infrastructure. Outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also recently called for a 20 to 30 cent per gallon gas tax increase to pay for roads.

Midwest Truckers Association Executive Vice President Don Schaefer said it’s not a matter of if, but when, the gas tax hike debate is coming. But he said it needs to be addressed fairly.

“Most people in Chicago don’t drive cars, but they sure do use subsidized mass transit,” Schaefer said. “And we think it’s only fair that hey, you know what, if you’re going to raise motor fuel taxes, is there going to be a mass transit fare increase to go along with this? So, let’s spread the pain out.”

Schaefer said lawmakers shouldn’t act on a whim during the lame duck session. If they do, he said thousands of trucks – and millions of dollars in commerce – could leave the state.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said during a press conference Monday at the capitol that a gas tax increase would intolerable, especially with a sales tax on top of motor fuel taxes.

“So everyone in the state pays six and a quarter percent, some areas pay more,” Skillicorn said. “Chicago area pays over ten percent. And then there’s local and county taxes on top of that.”

Those sales taxes are on top of the 18-cent per gallon federal motor fuel tax and 19-cent Illinois motor fuel tax.

Schaefer has a suggestion: Shift the sales tax that’s on top of the gas tax to infrastructure.

“It’s not really fair,” he said. “When you go and pay that price at the pump you think that the taxes that you pay at the pump is going to go for infrastructure.”

He said the sales tax on top of the gas tax goes to the state’s general fund.

Skillicorn said before lawmakers consider increasing the motor fuel tax, they need to wait until there’s money from the federal government.

“Instead of us predatorily raising taxes, we should be strategic,” Skillicorn said. “We should be working our congressional delegation to make sure that we’re getting some of this spending.”

Skillicorn held a press conference before a late morning rally at the capitol Monday in opposition to a gas tax hike.

Carol Davis, a Carol Stream resident, said that the people she talks to are “absolutely furious” about the idea of increasing taxes.

“This is going to accelerate the exodus,” Davis said. “We have been taxed to oblivion in Illinois. And you have the blindness in our legislators that they are absolutely blind to the fact that they’re causing people to flee.”

State Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, said there is going to have to be some more investment in infrastructure.

“I want to make sure that I’m not saving them a dollar today to cost them ten dollars tomorrow,” Martwick said.

Lawmakers last raised the state’s gas tax in 1990, but Illinois tax is still among the highest in the nation.

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