Gas tax hike may be around the corner for Gov.-elect JB Pritzker

By Austin Berg, Illinois Policy Institute | Nov 13, 2018


J.B. Pritzker will be the new governor of Illinois come January 2019. And Rahm Emanuel will remain mayor of Chicago until May 2019.

As part of that overlap, Illinoisans may see a hike in the gas tax, according to reporting from the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Topping Emanuel’s legislative wish-list is a transportation funding bill, possibly bankrolled by an increase in the gasoline tax, that’s needed to pay for a backlog of capital projects at the CTA and Metra,” wrote Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman.

The state last passed a capital bill in 2009, when it appropriated $31 billion for infrastructure projects.

Layers of taxation at the pump

The gas taxes Illinoisans pay can be far higher than in most other states because Illinois, along with just six other states as of 2017, levies a sales tax on gasoline.

When gas prices rise, Illinoisans shoulder among the most painful gas taxes in the country. In 2011, for example, when gasoline cost more than $4 a gallon, American Petroleum Institute data showed Illinoisans paid the third-highest gas taxes in the country.

The state imposes just a few of many layers of taxes on gas in Illinois. The typical Chicagoan’s gasoline bill includes the following taxes:

  • A federal motor fuel (excise) tax of 18.4 cents
  • State underground storage and environmental fees of a little over 1 cent
  • A slew of sales taxes that total 10.25 percent*:
    • 6.25 percent state sales tax
    • 1.25 percent Chicago sales tax
    • 1.75 percent Cook County sales tax
    • 1.00 percent Regional Transportation Authority sales tax
  • And more state and local motor fuel (excise) taxes:
    • 19 cent state motor fuel tax
    • 5 cent Chicago motor fuel tax
    • 6 cent Cook County motor fuel tax
*How these taxes are layered on matters. Illinois sales taxes are first applied on the base cost of gas plus the federal tax and environmental fees. Then, state and local excise taxes are layered on after the sales taxes are applied.

Per-mile driving tax

As a candidate, Pritzker wondered aloud about forcing drivers to pay a per-mile road user fee in addition to exorbitant gas taxes. He later walked back his remarks. But Pritzker is not the first Illinois politician to float this idea. Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, proposed a similar per-mile tax plan in 2016.

House Resolution 766, filed Jan. 23, 2018 by state Rep. Charles Meier, R-Highland, opposes any state taxes based on the number of miles driven.

Where would the money go?

Because of a constitutional amendment approved by Illinois voters in 2016, any money from the gas tax can only be used for transportation projects.

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