SPRINGFIELD — A House committee voted Thursday to more than double the state gasoline tax to pay for transportation projects.
The House Revenue and Finance Committee voted along party lines to raise the gasoline tax to 44 cents a gallon, as well as increase vehicle license fees and driver’s license fees.
The fees were identical to those proposed in the Senate a day earlier. Together, the gasoline tax and fee increases would produce about $2.4 billion that the state would spend on transportation infrastructure projects.
The revenue proposal is not the last piece in the Legislature’s effort to craft a capital bill that will pay for badly needed infrastructure projects in the state. None of the money approved by the House committee can be used for so-called vertical projects, which are buildings and other projects outside of transportation.
Also, Gov. JB Pritzker has not signed off on the proposal. His office said negotiations are ongoing on a capital plan and how to pay for it.
There are also competing ideas for how the state can pay for an infrastructure plan. The state Chamber of Commerce has endorsed a 25 cents a gallon increase in the gasoline tax, but the group wants it tied to the state eliminating the sales tax on gasoline.
“We have a proposal we think is better than this product for a number of reasons,” said Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the chamber. “Movement of this bill seems premature. There’s an awful lot of work to be done.”
He urged that bipartisan talks take place to find an agreement on a capital plan and a way to pay for it.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, appeared to agree.
“I think it’s the position of the House Democratic caucus to continue the conversation on what makes sense in terms of how to fund this proposal,” Zalewski said.
He called voting on the tax and fee proposal “the beginning of a dialogue on how to fund the horizontal capital construction bill.”
Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of Illinois Petroleum Marketers, said a gas tax increase will hurt gas stations on the Illinois border, where people can drive to another state and buy cheaper gasoline. He also said polls show that most people do not want to pay higher gasoline taxes.
Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, complained that the bill was only given to lawmakers to review the night before.
“To drop this bill (Wednesday) and to expect us to read this large bill overnight and to confine us to 60 minutes or less of discussion of it is unacceptable,” she said. “This is not an act of good faith, it is not good governance. This is an evil, evil process.”
Contact Doug Finke at firstname.lastname@example.org, (217) 788-1527 or twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.