Rockford's Independent Newspaper

State moves forward with $45 billion infrastructure plan, federal efforts uncertain

By Greg Bishop
The Center Square

CHICAGO – While Illinois drivers pay more for gas after lawmakers doubled the state’s gas tax and increased vehicle fees to pay for a $45 billion, federal lawmakers have yet to reach a consensus on how to move forward with a national infrastructure funding plan.

The state plan doubled the state’s gas tax and increased vehicle registration and other fees to pay for the $45 billion, six-year state infrastructure plan called “Rebuild Illinois.”

Illinois electric vehicle drivers will pay $248 annually for vehicle registration. That’s up from $17.50 a year.

Last month in Springfield, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, attended the signing ceremony for the bill with Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“I came out from Washington this morning to see what an infrastructure bill looks like,” Durbin said to laughter.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said Durbin, a leader in the Democratic Party, should have solid information about what’s ahead from the federal government.

“I hate excuses,” Davis said. “Washington is failing to address infrastructure needs.”

Davis said whatever the federal government does, it shouldn’t rely on more gas tax hikes. The federal government adds an 18.4-cent per gallon tax to gasoline. The federal gas tax was was last raised in 1993. Illinois levies a 38-cent tax on every gallon of gasoline, that’s up from 19-cents a gallon. 

“At the federal level, policies are in place telling manufacturers to make engines that burn less gas, so how in the world can we say the solution to the problem is just increasing the gas tax,” Davis said. “What we have got to do is diversify. You’ve got to create a 401(k) of sources.”

Illinois levies a 38-cent tax on every gallon of gasoline, that’s up from 19-cents a gallon. 

Davis said one plan is to diversify the taxes the federal government use, including charging a fee to drivers of electric vehicles, who Davis called “freeloaders.”

“There are plans that are out there [where] we can lower the gas tax at the federal level and still increase the amount of revenue by diversifying, making it less volatile and allowing states to plan better with that 80 percent federal investment,” Davis said.

Durbin said he doesn’t know when a federal plan might advance.

“It was promised in the last campaign, there’s been an effort on a bipartisan basis to get it moving, and man, would it be terrific to take (the state’s) capital bill and make it the 20 percent down payment on a major federal bill,” Durbin said. “You can just see what that would turn into across our state.”

It’s unclear if, or when, the U.S. Congress would move on a federal infrastructure plan.

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