The State of Illinois recently passed some pretty serious measures to curb– or, at least, tax the snot out of– the proliferation of fossil fuel-burning vehicles. In addition to doubling the State’s gas tax, Illinois lawmakers have increased the cost of registering gas-powered cars by more than 50%.
The change in fee prices follows a proposed hike in the cost of electric vehicle registration from $17.50 to $1000 (yeah, that says “one thousand US/American dollars”). The justification of the proposed hike was that, since gas taxes fund road maintenance and EV owners don’t buy gas, EV drivers weren’t paying their fair share of escalating infrastructure costs. In something of an about-face on the matter, Illinois put that burden even more squarely on gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs by raising the gas tax from $0.19 per gallon to $0.38 as of July 1st. Meanwhile, the cost of simply registering a conventionally powered car or truck has gone up from $98 to $148.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a simple “left v. right” policy vote, but Illinois politics are hardly so simple. In all, some twenty House Republicans voted for the new gas tax hike, including House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. The GOP lawmakers justified the vote as part of a larger deal that included reinstating the manufacturer’s purchase credit, expanded tax incentives for data centers, and the elimination of Illinois’ $200 million franchise tax in 2022. Seven House Democrats voted “no” on the gas tax hike, despite what seem to be obvious environmental benefits.
The Statewide gas tax increase is estimated to generate an additional $1.2 billion in revenue for State and local governments throughout Illinois, and the bill also allows cities like Chicago to increase their local gas taxes as well. Chicago is expected to raise theirs by $0.03, while suburbs in Lake County and Will County could impose an additional gas tax of up to $0.08 cents per gallon. These additional tax hikes, if enacted, are set to make Illinois’ average state and local gas tax burden the highest in the nation.
While I can’t really guess at the GOP’s motivations here, I take issue with the Dems’ insistence that this tax– which is, admittedly, regressive– will hit poor communities the hardest. I mean, it will, but it also has a real chance of getting more people to choose public transportation, especially from the more Chicago’s more affluent, outlying suburbs. What do you guys think? Let us know, in the comments.