* Just so you know, there are no plans that I can find to raise the gas tax during the lame duck session…
A Chicago-area lawmaker said Monday the state can’t afford a gas tax increase, calling it “predatory.”
Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said rumors have been “swirling around” since November about a 25-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase, and the idea for a gas tax up to 30 cents was recently floated by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In addition, now-former Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn, in his final weeks on the job last month, said an increase would “provide revenue necessary to maintain, enhance and modernize” the infrastructure system.
Skillicorn, however, said it would be “prudent” to wait to see how the lockbox amendment to the Illinois constitution, prohibiting the use of state transportation funds for any other purposes and passed in 2016, works out first.
Skillicorn, speaking at the Capitol Monday as the House returned to session for the first time since the veto session in November, acknowledged the need for repairs, maintenance and design upgrades for roads. But the strategic way for the state to deal with it is by working with its congressional delegation.
Both Republican legislative leaders are on record saying they want to get a capital bill done soon, and notice that Skillicorn was the only legislator at the presser who is returning in the 101st GA.
The state gas tax was increased in 1990, according to reports by the Chicago Tribune, which is why proponents of the increase say it’s time for the rate to go up again. Skillicorn contests that, though, and says there is a percentage base in place to make up for things like the rise inflation.
“Just because gasoline prices have dropped and the free market works and politics in Washington DC work to lower gas prices: Is that a good reason to raise gas taxes on the people of Illinois?” he asked Monday.
He also says timing is a key reason why the tax should not be increased. Two years ago, lawmakers passed what is essentially a lock box measure that would ensure motor fuel taxes be used for transportation and infrastructure needs only. He says it was to ensure the executive branch could not tap in to those funds. That law has only been in effect for 1 year, though, and Skillicorn says time is needed to see how useful that law is, and if the state actually needs an increase.
Timing in Washington is also key, he says. While Democrats and Republicans seem to be at odds with most things, the two sides do agree that investment in roads, bridges and other infrastructure is necessary. He says it would be premature to raise the gas tax before tapping in to federal resources.
The DC point assumes that Congress and the President will actually get something done.
* And the accompanying sideshow…