Illinois Group Pushes for Gas Tax Hike to Fund Road Repairs - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Illinois Group Pushes for Gas Tax Hike to Fund Road Repairs

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It's been a topic of debate in Iowa for some time now: Should the state increase the gas tax to pay for road and bridge improvements?

Now, the same question is being put to the legislature in Illinois.

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition unveiled its proposal Tuesday in Springfield that is meant to generate $1.8 billion a year for infrastructure improvements by increasing gas taxes among other things.

"It's worth it to maintain a good infrastructure," said John Henriksen, chairman of the statehouse committee for Transportation for Illinois Coalition. "It's worth it to pay the cost of what it takes to make your local roads and your state roads safe."

The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded is currently $3.55 in Iowa and $3.75 in Illinois.

Of that, 40.4 cents of what you pay in Iowa is taxes. In Illinois, it's 57.5 cents, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Breaking that down, in both states, you pay 18.4 cents in federal gas taxes.

In Iowa, you also pay 21 cents for the state gas tax and a one cent underground storage tank fee.

In Illinois, the state gas tax is 19 cents, what it has been since 1990, and the rest of what you pay - 20.1 cents - is for other state and local taxes, including state sales tax which goes to the general revenue fund.

Transportation for Illinois Coalition wants to dedicate more of the rest of those taxes to infrastructure funding and add four cents to the Illinois state gas tax to fund improvements. Their proposal also calls for increasing vehicle registration fees while devoting a larger portion of that fee to infrastructure, and ending ethanol tax credits.

Transportation for Illinois Coalition leaders say now is the time to act. Funding from the state's last capital improvement plan, which was passed in 2009, is already running out.

"If we don't get a new capital program up and running soon, by 2018, one out of every three miles of roadway will be in unacceptable condition and 12 percent of bridges will be unacceptable as well," Henriksen explained.

And, after unveiling their proposal to come up with the funding on Tuesday, the group is getting straight to work to gather support from lawmakers.

"We'll attempt to get as many people as possible to get this thing passed," Henriksen said.

But, getting a lot of Illinois drivers on board with the deal may be a tough sell:

"I think that's actually kind of ridiculous," said Donnie Schold, as he filled up his gas tank in Rock Island on Tuesday.

"I think there's other things they could be taxing on rather than gas," he said. "I mean it's hard enough for people to get mobile and raising the price on gas is just going to make it even harder."

"They should leave it as it is or reduce the prices would be much better. But it's a lot simpler to run across the bridge to get gas," said another driver at that gas station.

"I want to pay less money on gas," said still another driver, Jean Dodieur Nshimirimana, who was preparing to fill up his tank there.

Still, John Henriksen insists the results on the roads if the new proposal is passed would be well worth the extra few pennies at the pump:

"I'll tell you, you hit a pothole, you bend a rim, you're going to spend a lot more than four cents a gallon," he said. "That's what we're after. We're trying to get those potholes filled and fixed."

And that's a cause at least some drivers we talked to could get behind.

"I think the roads need improved very bad. If that's what it takes to get the job done, then so be it, because the streets are terrible," said Chuck Blake, as he pumped gas into his pickup truck in Rock Island on Tuesday.

Now, it's up to Illinois lawmakers to decide whether this proposal is the best way to fund those infrastructure improvements.

"Do whatever you think is better, you know," one driver, Jorge Galena, advised.

Proposals in the Iowa legislature this year to increase the state's gas tax have so far failed to gain much traction.

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