* 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.