Lake County looks at 4-cent gas tax hike using law that doubled state gas tax
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker approved doubling the state gas tax in 2019 and gave some counties and Chicago the power to hike local gas taxes. Lake County is the latest to consider doing so.
Lake County leaders will vote March 9 on a 4-cents-per-gallon fuel tax increase.
They initially were looking at raising the gas tax by 8 cents a gallon, but cut the proposal in half after some Lake County Board members resisted. There is still resistance.
“I can’t, in my wildest dreams, think of a worse time to implement this tax,” said Linda Pedersen, vice chair of the public works, planning and transportation committee. She and others objected to imposing a new tax while COVID-19 is still hurting the economy and residents’ personal finances.
The tax is expected to generate $8 million to $11 million a year, which would be added to the $30 million a year available for a $1.7 billion list of projects the county plans to tackle by 2040. County leaders twice failed to get voters to approve sales taxes to support transportation projects, but since 2008 the county has received over $362 million from the Regional Transportation Authority sales tax for road projects.
The ability to impose a gas tax came in 2019 when Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state lawmakers doubled the statewide fuel tax. The new law also granted certain counties the power to increase or start a local gas tax “not less than 4 cents per gallon and not more than 8 cents per gallon.” Will County was the first to add a 4-cent tax under the new law, and was followed by DuPage County doubling from 4 to 8 cents in November and the city of Chicago going from 5 to 8 cents on Jan. 1.
The Lake County Board previously looked at imposing the tax in 2019 after they were granted the authority.
Board member Craig Taylor said 4 cents may not be the final amount. He said the county needs 8 cents per gallon but recommended waiting a year “until people get their feet back on the ground” after COVID-19 economic impacts lessen.
Public works and transportation committee member John Wasik said the gas tax would help the economy, create jobs, reduce congestion and provide other benefits.
“We are trying to address a long-standing issue,” Wasik said. “Now is the time to do it.”
When Illinois doubled the state gas tax, state leaders also built in automatic increases each July, which spares them from responsibility for taking politically unpopular votes on increasing gas taxes. The state tax doubled from 19 cents to 38 cents a gallon in 2019, then increased to 38.7 cents in 2020 and faces another boost of as much as 1 cent this year.
Drivers paid an extra $100 per year on average after the gas tax doubled, according to an Illinois Policy Institute analysis. Also, Illinois is one of just seven states where drivers pay layers of both gas taxes and general sales taxes at the state and local levels. Residents of DuPage, Kane, and McHenry counties already paid a 4-cent gas tax before the 2019 state gas tax hike. Cities and villages such as Decatur, Highland Park, Belvidere, Niles, Schaumburg and Bloomington also impose their own taxes and fees on gas.
All Illinois drivers also pay sales taxes on top of their gas taxes, which is essentially double taxation.