Illinois Municipal League backs local gas tax proposal

Their proposal would expand a Cook County measure nationwide
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 4:08 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - As Gov. J.B. Pritzker continues his statewide tour promoting his tax relief budget proposal, the Illinois Municipal League is promoting legislation that would allow small municipalities to implement a 3 cent per gallon gas tax.

They say it would help fund the same kind of projects and infrastructure repairs that larger communities deal with, but that smaller communities don’t have the funds to make happen.

Under the current legislation, larger municipalities of 3 million or more residents can impose a gas tax without going to the polls for a referendum. They can impose a tax of up to 3cents, 1 cent per gallon at a time. Smaller municipal governments have to take a tax proposal to the voters. The proposed legislation would allow them to skip the polls to implement the tax.

IML Executive Director Brad Cole wants to make clear, however, that this does not assume the communities will add on the tax. Rather, he says it gives them the “authority” to add that tax on if they need it.

“If they don’t wish to they don’t have to,” he said, “but if they have a local project that they want to fund locally, this would allow them to do that and it would allow them to do that without going to referendum.”

Local projects are funded by municipality public works funds and funds from the state. This, IML argues, would allow them to fund on their own.

“It’s not an increase, it’s not a tax. It’s authority to allow local governments to make local decisions,” Cole said.

The Illinois Fuel and Retail Association, a trade association for gas distributors, responded to the proposal. they are “adamantly opposed” to the bill. Under the legislation, small municipalities can only implement a tax on what they General Assembly allows them to implement a tax on.

“We think it’s really unfair to single us out,” IFRA Executive director Josh Sharp said. “They get that money anyway and they are free to spend it on whatever they see fit.”

Sharp and IFRA assert that local governments already receive 15% of the gas tax back and that they don’t need more money. Sharp calls the proposal “hypocritical” due to an ongoing Supreme Court Case where municipalities argue they aren’t required to spend gas tax money on roads and bridges.

The bill currently awaits an assignment to a committee. It’s not clear if it will move forward.

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