By Greg Bishop
SPRINGFIELD – Drivers in Illinois sent more than $200 million in additional gas taxes to Springfield in the first two months after the state’s motor fuel tax doubled.
Illinois lawmakers doubled the state’s gas tax to 38 cents a gallon. That rate went into effect on July 1. In July, drivers paid $99 million more than the year before. New revenue numbers from the Illinois Department of Revenue made available this week showed drivers paid $101.5 million more in August than the year before.
“That’s a lot of money,” said state Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee. “And I have to question where is this going? Is it going to our roads or is it going to fill the swamp?”
Skillicorn opposed doubling the state’s gas tax. The 19-cent per gallon increase was part of a package of tax and fee increases to pay for a five-year, $45 billion infrastructure bill that included not just roads, but also public buildings and other projects around the state.
Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch said the business organization supported the tax increase. In 2018, he said voters approved a constitutional amendment that prohibited lawmakers from using transportation funds for other things.
“That was the vital, vital first step to make sure that ‘hey you may not like spending more at the pump, but at least you know that your money is going to those roads that you’re about to drive on,’ ” Maisch said.
Skillicorn said the Lockbox amendment allows transportation taxes to be spent on things such as bike lanes, sidewalks and buses, not just roads and bridges. He said he wants the tax increase repealed and plans to file legislation to do so.
Maisch said the Chamber would oppose repealing the gas tax hike.
“The reality is you’ve just got to go ahead and make an investment in our single most important economic asset, which is our transportation infrastructure,” he said.
Skillicorn said the Chamber’s opposition to the proposal was unfortunate.
“We’re taking literally $100 million out of Illinois’ economy every month and giving it to politicians,” Skillicorn said. “We’re not keeping it in the people’s hands to spend how they want.”
It’s still too early to determine if Illinoisans bought fewer gallons of gas in July and August versus the year before when gas taxes were 19 cents cheaper. The Illinois Department of Revenue’s Taxable Gallonage chart has yet to fully updated.
Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.