SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WREX) — A Republican state lawmaker in Illinois is speaking out against a push by outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel to raise the state’s gas tax.
In December, Emmanuel said the state’s motor fuel tax should be increased to fund highway and bridge improvements. Under his plan, the gas tax would increase from 19 cents per gallon, to as much as 20 to 30 cents.
On Monday, Republican Rep. Allen Skillicorn held a news conference in Springfield to denounce the proposal.
In Illinois, taxpayers can pay as much as 71 cents per gallon of gas. Part of that is because of the federal government’s motor fuel tax, state taxes, and additional local and county taxes.
Skillicorn says if a hike were to happen, the state would lead the nation for the highest tax on gas. Hypothetically, Pennsylvania would be in second, trailing behind Illinois by 22 percent.
Skillicorn outlined three reasons why an increase is wrong or poorly-timed:
The state gas tax was increased in 1990, according to reports by the Chicago Tribune, which is why proponents of the increase say it’s time for the rate to go up again. Skillicorn contests that, though, and says there is a percentage base in place to make up for things like the rise inflation.
“Just because gasoline prices have dropped and the free market works and politics in Washington DC work to lower gas prices: Is that a good reason to raise gas taxes on the people of Illinois?” he asked Monday.
He also says timing is a key reason why the tax should not be increased. Two years ago, lawmakers passed what is essentially a lock box measure that would ensure motor fuel taxes be used for transportation and infrastructure needs only. He says it was to ensure the executive branch could not tap in to those funds. That law has only been in effect for 1 year, though, and Skillicorn says time is needed to see how useful that law is, and if the state actually needs an increase.
Timing in Washington is also key, he says. While Democrats and Republicans seem to be at odds with most things, the two sides do agree that investment in roads, bridges and other infrastructure is necessary. He says it would be premature to raise the gas tax before tapping in to federal resources.
“Let’s be pragmatic and strategic,” he says. “Let’s not be predatory.”
He says special interest groups are behind the movement as well, but new faces will soon fill the Capitol building as a new legislative session begins. Inauguration for Democratic Gov.-elect JB Pritzker and other statewide elected offices is Jan. 14.