Chicago Mayor Proposes Illinois Gas-Tax Increase

Emanuel pitches a 20- to 30-cent increase to pay for infrastructure
Photograph: Shutterstock

CHICAGO -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed a 20- to 30-cent-per-gallon (CPG) increase to Illinois’ gasoline tax to help fund a state transportation bill. This would make Illinois’ gas tax, which has sat at 19 CPG since 1990, among the highest in the United States.

Emanuel, whose term ends in May 2019, made the proposal at a press conference with an association of Chicago-area mayors, the Chicago Tribune reported. “Our state can’t wait any longer,” he said. Illinois has not raised its gas tax in 28 years and not passed major transportation legislation in almost a decade, he said.

"The state needs to raise revenue for infrastructure, and a 20- to 30-cent-per-gallon increase in the motor fuel tax and other traditional transportation funding sources is a reasonable and widely supported place to start," Emanuel said in a press release. "Other states and regions are far ahead of the State of Illinois and metropolitan Chicago in raising revenues to support infrastructure projects. About half of the states, including Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio, have raised transportation revenues since 2012, while Illinois’s gas tax has been at 19 cents per gallon since 1990."

If Illinois’ gas tax were raised to 39 to 49 CPG, it would rank alongside those of Pennsylvania (58.2 CPG), California (55.22 CPG) and Washington (49.4 CPG), according to the Tax Foundation.

"Every 5-cent-per-gallon increase in the motor fuel tax results in approximately $20 million more in city revenue and over $250 million statewide," he said.

The Tribune story said Emanuel’s proposal could give “political cover” to incoming Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who takes office in January 2019 and has supported infrastructure investment but not specified how to pay for any effort. Pritzker and Illinois legislative leaders did not comment on the proposal as of press time.

At the press conference, Emanuel also said that electric-vehicle (EV) owners should pay a fee so they can “contribute to the maintenance and modernization of the infrastructure system,” although he did not offer any specifics.

In October, Emanuel told the Tribune that Illinois should also consider a vehicle-miles-traveled tax, which would levy a fee based on how many miles a vehicle travels. This would help resolve how to share the burden of infrastructure upkeep with a future fleet of EVs and fuel-efficient hybrids.

“If you want a transportation system that efficiently gets you from your work to home to be with your family and vice versa, we have to invest in the future and we have to have resources,” he told the Tribune in October. “And I don’t think we’re going to get a federal transportation bill because they’re talking about a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that doesn’t exist.”


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