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Fuel taxes and speed limits

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2013

* Tom Kacich reports

Facing dwindling revenue from the state gasoline tax, the Transportation for Illinois Coalition will propose new motor fuel fees in May, an official with the group said Monday.

Among the possibilities being considered, said Jennifer Morrison, managing director of the coalition, are a surcharge on electric and hybrid vehicles and moving away from a per-gallon tax (now 19 cents a gallon) to a percentage-based tax that would bring in more money as the price of fuel increases. Morrison’s organization is a coalition of business, labor and transit groups interested in transportation funding issues.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now program is winding down, Morrison said, and the motor fuel tax, which funds state and local road projects, “is stagnant and declining, and at the same time, there is a dramatic increase in the cost of construction. That terrible dynamic (causes) … the incredibly diminished purchasing power of the motor fuel tax.

“Obviously, that’s not sustainable going forward. Cars are going to get increasingly fuel-efficient and are mandated to do so. We need to do something to fix that structural problem and investment in transportation.”

Switching the motor fuel tax to a percentage tax from a gallonage tax is a huge ask, to say the least. A couple of reacts

In order to afford those projects, lawmakers will look for places where the state is losing revenue. Representative Mike Bost says truckers are avoiding Illinois because of its higher gas tax and the state needs to try other techniques to bring in their business.

“That’s why we still need to maintain a sensible, competitive rate, for encouraging travel through the state of Illinois and we are losing a lot of those dollars that way,” explains Bost.

Representative Brandon Phelps says Chicago lawmakers want a bigger portion of the state’s transportation fund. Right now, it’s a 55/45 split favoring downstate projects. He says Chicago lawmakers want a 50/50 split.

“We can’t afford to let that happen,” says Phelps.

Translation: No higher taxes.

* Meanwhile, AAA is opposed to raising the speed limit to 70 mph

“The Illinois legislature should not ignore the enormous speeding problem Illinois already has on its roadways,” said Brad Roeber, president of AAA Chicago. “Speeding accounts for more than half of Illinois’ over 900 roadway fatalities, and this problem cannot be fixed by letting cars and trucks travel faster.”

The data on speeding are clear. From 2008-2011, Illinois’ roadway fatalities dropped 12 percent; but those fatalities due to speeding rose nearly 14 percent. Furthermore, in 2010 and 2011, Illinois speed limits for large trucks were raised to 65 mph. Over this time, there has been a 39 percent increase in fatalities involving large trucks.

* But the SJ-R argues that “There is no good argument for keeping Illinois’ speed limit at 65 under the parameters outlined in the bill”

Well, on Illinois’ rural interstates, the majority of drivers actually are traveling well over 65 mph — more like 70 to 75 mph. We’ve all seen it. Drive 65 or slower on I-55 and you run the risk of being blown off the highway, honked at or rudely gestured to. […]

Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, who sponsored the bill, said he doesn’t believe people who already speed now will just drive even faster if the limit is raised.

“I really don’t think so,” he said. “In fact, I would be willing to support a tighter enforcement of the speed limit.”

We agree with Oberweis. If officials are concerned about excessive speeding and the possible repercussions, we encourage the Illinois State Police and other law enforcement agencies to crack down on speeding on the interstates and send a message that flouting the state’s speed limit won’t be tolerated.

The speed limit is almost always the minimum speed. Of course people will drive faster. Ever been to a state with higher speed limits than Illinois? People in state’s I’ve visited tend to drive faster than their posted speed limits. Also, is Oberweis OK with cutting other budgets to beef up ISP speed enforcement? Where and how?

Also, the SJ-R editorial cited as an authority the National Motorists Association, which is offering a $20,000 cash reward to anyone who can substantiate the stats in this National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statement

Despite the tireless efforts of thousands of advocates, impaired drivers continue to kill someone every 30 minutes, nearly 50 people a day, and almost 18,000 citizens a year. NHTSA and its partners are working together to put a stop to these deadly statistics.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 11:44 am:

    ===Ever been to a state with higher speed limits than Illinois?===

    I drive across Iowa about six times per year, and maybe Iowa is an anomaly, but those hayseeds like to drive under the 70 limit and almost always in the left lane.

    The good people of Iowa should add another lane to I-80 and make it a toll road for through traffic. I’d gladly pay more if they kept Iowans off the road.

  2. - Darienite - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 11:52 am:

    There does need to be a fundamental change in funding highway engineering and construction. Illinois has been at the same Motor Fuel Tax rate for decades. Meanwhile, when people drive less, the MFT revenue decreases, even though our highway system continues to deteriorate.

  3. - Reformer - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 12:03 pm:

    I stand with Barney Fife: “Now Andy, if you let them take 30, they’ll take 35. If you let them take 35, they’ll take 40. If you let them take 40, they’ll take 45. If you let them…”

  4. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 12:06 pm:

    – Representative Mike Bost says truckers are avoiding Illinois because of its higher gas tax and the state needs to try other techniques to bring in their business.–

    Is this guy for real? Is there a lick of sense in that statement?

  5. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 12:19 pm:

    Well if you increase the speed limit drivers will burn more gas giving you more gas tax revenue. So there’s that.

  6. - Victor Kingston - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 12:26 pm:


    No it’s brilliant! Decrease the tax rate so more trucking will come through Illinois, causing more wear and tear on the roads while simultaneously decreasing the already insufficient amount available to maintain said roads. It’s genius I tell ya! Completely foolproof!

    If anyone needs me I’ll be over Herr gentle sobbing.

  7. - Victor Kingston - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 12:27 pm:


  8. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 12:39 pm:

    Victor, I’m pretty sure trucking comes through Illinois when it’s the shortest distance between Point A and Point B, regardless of gasoline taxes.

    I don’t thing anyone’s jogging south through Kentucky, or north through Wisconsin and the UP, to save a few pennies a gallon.

  9. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:01 pm:

    Raise the speed limit to 70. I’ve driven in states with 70 and 75. In Detroit, they have 70 throughout the area including on metro suburban expressways. Have heard a lot of probs out of Detroit. Haven’t heard they have a particular epidemic of highway deaths. This is no big deal.

    Now if we could get people to actually stay in the right lane except when passing, now that would be something!

  10. - phocion - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:12 pm:

    “Representative Mike Bost says truckers are avoiding Illinois because of its higher gas tax…”

    Illinois - 19.0 cents per gallon
    Wisconsin - 30.9
    Indiana - 18.0
    Iowa - 21.0
    Missouri - 17.0
    Kentucky - 28.5
    Tennessee - 20.0
    Ohio - 28.0

    Rep. Bost should be a bit more careful with his “facts” before opening his mouth.

  11. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:16 pm:

    Just finished two road trips, one to South Carolina, and the second last weekend to Houston.

    When the speed limit is 70, the cars that pass you do so a few miles faster than you are traveling. Sure beats the tollway where 55 means 70 and everyone passes you going 10 MPH faster. In Illinois, you need to exceed the speed limit just for safety reasons with your fellow drivers.

    In Texas, 75 seemed to be 75 with nearly all drivers. My 12 year old Jeep Grand Cherokee with 285,000 miles decided that 75 was as fast as it wanted to go anyway.

    In Illinois, slower speed limits seem to increase the number of cars hurtling past you. I don’t find that to be the case elsewhere where the speed limit is 70 or 75.

  12. - Kevin Highland - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:18 pm:

    “…truckers are avoiding Illinois …”

    I had an in-law that was an over the road trucker based out of Indiana. He would get a “fueling” bonus ever quarter if he didn’t buy fuel in Illinois. So yes the statement made sense and it is lost revenue.

  13. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:19 pm:

    Don’t know the tax rates or why, I do recall that Illinois imposes a sales tax on top of their gasoline tax, but last weekend in Arkansas gas was 3.11 per gallon. In Texas 3.35 to 3.47 a gallon. Cross the border into Illinois and suddenly it’s 4.00 a gallon. By my house this a.m. it was 4.17 a gallon.

  14. - Joe Schmoe - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:23 pm:

    Don’t worry about the price of gas…truckers worry about the tax on the price of diesel:

    Illinois: - 22.6 cents per gallon statewide
    Chicago - 27.6 cents per gallon
    Plus all diesel carries an average 22.1 cent state sales tax, which is based on the price of the fuel and the federal tax –so we pay a tax on a tax.
    Wisconsin - 32.9 cents
    Indiana -16.0 cents per gallon plus state sales tax
    Iowa - 23.5
    Missouri - 17.3
    Kentucky - 26.9
    Tennessee - 18.4
    Ohio - 28.0

  15. - Joe Schmoe - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:27 pm:

    So Illinois’ average tax on diesel is 43.6 cents per gallon. According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, we win?!

  16. - BW - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:32 pm:

    This seems petty, but bumping up the speed limit would result in a huge cost for updated signage as well. New mandates for the reflective material tripled the price of a standard sign. This is killing a lot of municipalities as they have had to replace their street signs to meet the requirements.

  17. - RonOglesby - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:33 pm:

    All these post show Wisconsin with a higher tax on fuel…

    Yet every weekend I drive up to janesville and the gas is like 30 cents or more CHEAPER than Plainfield/Oswego… And Plainfield is way cheaper than cook/the city.

    Where is the additional tax we are missing here.

  18. - Darienite - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:37 pm:

    Try a week and a half ago. Price of 87 octane in DuPage was 3.95/gal. Along I-80 in Ottawa or LaSalle, 3.40/gal. Guess it was the reformulated mixes for summer,lol.

  19. - phocion - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:44 pm:

    Ron, you may consider that the lower costs in other states are not related to taxes at all. Instead, oil companies appear to maximize profits in certain states, including Illinois.

  20. - door gunner - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:50 pm:

    there are so many things to say. If you go back in the day when interstates were built, i believe you will find they were built for a 70 mph speed limit built in the designs. if you compare todays cars and more importantly tires back to then it should be a piece of cake to the conclusion. speed limits are not for safety they are for revenue. you ride with some of these elderly you see on the road at 60 mph and try not to have a heart attack. just like the economy its the driver stupid, not the speed. ohhh 70 mph maybe wear a helmet.

  21. - Hey Now - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:50 pm:

    Obviously government hasn’t helped itself by mandating better efficiency. The idea of a surcharge on a hybrid is tough to understand. Assess a fee upon a hybrid tahoe that gets 20 mpg but not a 42 mpg fusion? It is about use of the roads, not use of gasoline. Ultimately, a user based tax will be the most acceptable.

  22. - Skeptic - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:52 pm:

    “People won’t drive any faster than they already do with the higher speed limits.” Are they talking about raising the speed limit from 65 or did I have a flashback to 1987 when they raised it from 55 to 65? Hard to tell from that argument.

  23. - RonOglesby - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 1:54 pm:


    sorry market doesnt work like that. I was doing a little digging and it seems not all states apply standard sales tax on top of fuel tax.

    So 3 bucks in gas at 8% sales tax, there is 24 cents right there. 3.50 will put us at 28 cents (just sales tax not fuel tax).

    So Sales tax on 3.00 gas
    24 cents sales tax
    19 cents Illinois fuel tax
    1.1 cent per gallon underground storage fee
    18.4 cents federal tax.

    62.5 cents total for a $3.62 a gallon.

    Remove the suburban sales tax 3.38

    all makes sense when you can see all the numbers

  24. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 2:03 pm:


    Oddly enough Springfield always seems to have higher gas prices than other areas of the state. My parents live around the Bloomington-Normal area and gas in my hometown is always 10 - 15 cents cheaper than Springfield.

  25. - RonOglesby - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 2:17 pm:


    some of it is location (transport costs, land cost for being say downtown NYC vs Cleveland, etc.)

    Still shows that while our “gas tax” may not be the highest, we also pay sales tax on gas which is % based and not all states do.

  26. - phocion - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 2:36 pm:

    Sorry but your math doesn’t add up. You’ve chalked up 25 cents total in additional taxes that other states may or may not levy (sales and UST). Every other state pays federal and some state tax. State flat gas tax varies, but Illinois is among the lowest. So, yes, there appears to be something akin to collusion in the oil or retail sectors that keeps Illinois gas costs higher than other states.

    The average price per gallon in Illinois at $3.94 is second to Hawaii. Illinois’ total tax on gas, including what you mentioned is 39 cents. California, which has a total tax of 49 cents, has an average price per gallon of $3.88. Alaska, which has the lowest gas tax in the nation for a total of 19 cents, has an average price per gallon of $3.91.

    But Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee, which pay a total of 21 cents per gallon in gas taxes, have average prices per gallon at $3.25.

    All makes sense when you see the numbers - NOT REALLY. Saying taxes are the only reason for higher gas prices are is demonstrably FALSE.

  27. - Shemp - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 2:42 pm:

    When I have crossed places like the Dakotas and Nebraska with higher limits, people aren’t going much over the limit. If you try to do 7-8mph over in those states, you’re passing the majority of people. If you do 7-8 mph over here, you’re probably just staying with the average.

  28. - anon - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 2:49 pm:

    Illinois is one of only seven states to charge sales tax on gasoline. Gas taxes in most states are assessed as a fixed number of cents per gallon. No matter how wildly oil prices swing, drivers in those states pay the same built-in taxes. But Illinois sales tax changes, calculated as a percentage of the sale.

    So as gas prices rise for all of America, Illinois prices rise faster.

    The Illinois state sales tax, normally 6.25 percent, is added to every gallon. However, if the gas is mixed with ethanol, which nearly all of it is, it’s taxed at a lower rate, or 5 percent. So, back when gas cost $1.25, as it did for so many years, applying a 5 percent sales tax would have added about 6 cents to the cost. But tack on 5 percent to $4 gasoline, and you’re talking an additional 20 cents per gallon.

    But that’s just state sales tax.

    Illinois is unusual for allowing counties and municipalities to tax gasoline.

    Consider total sales taxes in Chicago: City, county and Regional Transportation Authority sales taxes add another 3.5 percent, but because of the ethanol factor, it’s 2.8 percent.

    In sales taxes alone, a $4 gallon of gas goes to about $4.31, according to calculations based on figures provided by the Illinois Department of Revenue.

    But there’s more.

    When you buy gas in Chicago, you pay a couple more flat taxes. The city of Chicago and Cook County not only levy sales taxes but also flat taxes of 5 cents and 6 cents, respectively. Illinois is the only state to allow all these different taxes to be levied in concert, Sykuta said.

    Worsening the problem is that some sales taxes are applied on top of flat taxes, charging motorists tax on tax, which only accelerates the total cost.

    “One reason for higher prices is because of the multiple layers of taxes in Chicago,” said John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute.

  29. - reformer - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 3:44 pm:

    == there has been a 39 percent increase in fatalities involving large trucks since IL raised the speed limit on big rigs to 65 mph.==

    That’a not what proponents of raising the limit predicted. IN fact, they predicted higher truck speeds would make roadways safer. Do legislators whose new laws end up causing more deaths ever apologize, admit their mistake, and seek to repeal it? I know, stupid question.

    == I’d even support stricter speed enforcement. ==

    The most cost effective way to enforce speed is with photo-radar speed cameras. Something tells me good Senator won’t sign on to that.

    I recall when Big Jim repealed the double nickel limit in the 80s, he also promised stricter enforcement. Didn’t happen then either.

  30. - reformer - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 3:46 pm:

    == this hike in the speed limit is no big deal. ==

    Did you notice the AAA Chicago fact that since the truck limit was raised to 65, there has been a 39% increase in fatalities involving big trucks? Do you deny it, or just chalk it up to the price of freedom?

  31. - reformer - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 3:56 pm:

    The reality is the ISP is too shorthanded to enforce speed limits the way they could some decades ago. The consequence is widespread disregard for the law in this state. The average mph over the limit is actually greater today than it was during the double nickel days when there was more enforcement.

    Other states do a better job at speed enforcement. Any IL motorist knows not to speed in Wisconsin, for instance. (Ask Sacia.)

  32. - Bigtwich - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 5:11 pm:

    Several states, California, Washington, Oregon, have had some discussion about a pay-per-mile as an alternative to the gas tax based on a GPS devise in the vehicle. I guess you could enforce speed laws with that too.

  33. - Newsclown - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 5:22 pm:

    I say It is ridiculous to dis-incentivize the change-over to low-polluting electric and hybrid cars and trucks by charging them extra to make up for reduced gas tax revenue. If this is for the road fund, why not raise taxes on tires, which is at least more fair across all vehicles.

    Or base a user fee on your Illinois vehicle’s odometer reading at the start and end of the tax year. Then the ones that use the road the most, pay the most. You could have the official mileage read off by gas stations or car dealerships, which would enjoy the extra chance to sell you something while you stopped in and got the mileage confirmed. That’s a low-tech way to do it for personal vehicles, that also preserves some privacy, versus a GPS that tracks every move and destination. Truckers can already get exact readouts on their miles, based on the weigh stations and logs.

    As far as the reported increased deaths from raising highway speeds, I told you all when they passed the bill that this was going to happen. E-sub-k=1/2mv squared is the kinetic energy equation, and it doesn’t give a hoot about politics.

    What the equation does is show just how much more crash energy is caused by even a slight increase in speed. Increased speeds reduce reaction time, so sleepy and distracted drivers have less chance to avoid crashes, while their increased kinetic energy stretches out stopping distances, by 100’s of yards, in all conditions.

    Increasing vehicle speeds by another ten miles per hour, especially for trucks, is just a recipe for more death, and really, is it THAT urgent to get your plastic made-in-China consumer junk delivered forty minutes earlier? Is the toll in lives and lifetime injuries worth getting to a destination a little bit sooner? I say no.

  34. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 5:40 pm:

    There is a point where people will stop driving a degree faster than the speed limit when they start feeling uncomfortable. 70-75 mph is a reasonable speed over which a large percentage of drivers will not feel comfortable exceeding. All depends on who’s driving,also. Not surprised that Iowa farmers would feel uncomfortable at 85 while Texas ranchers have more tolerance for it. Wide open spaces, few on the road, etc.

  35. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 6:03 pm:

    Demoralized, that used to be the other way around. I always figured they wanted to keep it lower in Spfld for political reasons. Now, not so much.

  36. - Chambananon - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 6:05 pm:

    @reformer “The most cost effective way to enforce speed is with photo-radar speed cameras.”

    Photo-radar speed cameras are actually highly ineffective when it comes to interstate speed limit enforcement for two primary reasons:

    1) the photo only gets the license plate, not the driver, so it’s impossible to prove ID on the driver and get the ticket to stick;

    2) the processing time for the photo and ticket (historically) commonly takes well over 2 months from the date the offense occurs — meaning that under IL law (specifically the Supreme Court Rules) the tickets won’t hold up in court if challenged by the driver. This is because a driver has a) the right to a first appearance on a petty offense traffic ticket no fewer than 14 days and no more than 60 days from the date of the offense, absent a showing of some sort of extraordinary grounds for the delay AND b) a right to a trial on a petty offense on their first court date (which means that even if the court date were set for a time before the 2-months-plus processing period would be done, the driver could easily just say “not guilty, let’s go to trial” and the state would have to dismiss for lack of evidence).

    This bigger issue by far, though, is the fact that the inability to positively ID the driver kills any speeding ticket outright — no ID of the defendant means no ability to prove the defendant committed the violation.

  37. - Just The Way It Is One - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 8:16 pm:

    It’ll pass, but for reasons I’ve already stated here, I’m with the AAA on this one. 70’s just too dang fast–turns into 80 in a blink of an eye and DEcreases everybody’s safety, when folks go 70-75 ALL time now already and get away with it.And although I’m loath to say it, I really think this measure is actually as much about Sen. Oberweis thinking he’s doing something important as a legislator when it’s just as much about pacifying his ego…!

  38. - reformer - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 8:19 pm:

    The trucking assn. admits that 70 mph is too fast for safe operation of big rigs. It’s a shame that public safety ranks so low in legislator priorities.

  39. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 8:56 pm:

    I have heard a proposal where every car will have a sensor built in or added on which will determine how many miles have been driven - not how much fuel has been consumed. For folks like me (2003 Jetta TDI) who get 40+ mpg, this would be a problem. I pay less in taxes but drive ALOT. Especially to Wisconsin. Where I fuel up, if I can, because the fuel prices are almost always lower than in Illinois. Why? Boutique fuels, is why. Especially for gas, Illinois - Chicago area more so - is required to have a gas formulation that is much more costly that in Wisconsin. I don’t know the numbers but Chicago area drivers are hit hard. No way to buy the specially formulated gas from another refinery - as I understand it, the special formula is made by ONLY one refinery. Helps explain why gasoline prices can skyrocket when a refinery fire happens. For diesel it’s a bit different. Fuel prices go up in the fall since refineries switch over to make fuel oil - mostly used in New England.

    Anyway, if they want to change the way they charge taxes - better to consider the ratio to fuel prices rather than a device in your car that records miles driven. That flat tax thingie on electric cars or hybrids is fine with me - charge them up the wazoo for all I care. I would never buy one of those things.

  40. - RonOglesby - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 9:06 pm:


    sorry so late, but you are wrong. You ignore custom blends for certain states, transport costs, etc. Hawaii is high because of transport and cost of land to have a gas station. VS some gas station in mississippi.

    I was comparing Plainfield Illinois to Janesville wisconsin, Two like states in the midwest with like or near like property costs and transport costs.

    The approx 30 cent difference I see is PERFECTLY explained by the $.25 tax per gallon.

    Sorry sir you need to see some conspiracy in oil companies, but you cannot ignore simple analysis and come up with some huge conspiracy.

  41. - Mama - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 10:18 pm:

    It costs money to change all of the speed limit signs in IL. To save money, instead of changing the signs, tell the troopers, and police not to stop anyone driving 70 mph.

  42. - RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 30, 13 @ 11:27 pm:

    Having spent the past week driving in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, the 70 or 75 speed limit seems to work pretty well. At most, people were exceeding it by 2 or 3 MPH. They were also really good about dropping back to the 65, 55 and (rarely) 45 construction zones. Saw more cops enforcing the limits than Illinois, especially in Texas. I got back to Illinois and I had to do 5 MPH over just to be running with the average traffic coming up from St Louis … some of it was running as fast as 80.

    Go ahead and raise to to 70 outside the major city bypasses.

  43. - reformer - Wednesday, May 1, 13 @ 8:15 am:


    ISP already refrains from pulling over cars that are only 5 mph over the limit. I expect there will be a similar de facto leeway for the higher limit.


    More enforcement is Texas is the key reason for better compliance with their speed limit. Illinois hasn’t had serious enforcement on its major highways in years; driver behavior reflects it.

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