Per-mile driving tax proposal introduced in Illinois House

Per-mile driving tax proposal introduced in Illinois House

New House bill would create a pilot program to test the feasibility of a per-mile driving tax.

House Bill 2864 is the latest proposal for a per-mile driving tax, an idea which drew backlash from Illinoisans statewide when then-candidate J.B. Pritzker floated the idea.

HB 2864 would create a pilot program under which 5,000 participants apply to pay 2 cents per-mile driven in place of gas taxes levied by the Motor Fuel Tax Law. The state gas tax is currently 19 cents per gallon, but once fees and general sales tax are factored in, motorists pay on average 37.3 cents per gallon in state taxes at the pump.

HB 2864 provides few details, leaving significant portions of the program to be decided through rulemaking by the Illinois Department of Transportation, or IDOT. The bill directs IDOT to take under consideration the “privacy options for persons liable for the per-mile road usage charge” and provide program participants multiple options for how their information is collected and reported.

The lack of adequate ground rules pose serious privacy concerns. Dependence on a bureaucratic process to determine protections may leave drivers at risk of privacy violations.

In January 2018, then-candidate J.B. Pritzker floated the idea of a VMT tax during an interview with the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald. Pritzker would later walk it back and claim he never proposed such an idea.

The proposal unleashed intense backlash across the state. DuPage County voters were overwhelmingly against the VMT tax, with 77 percent telling the county to oppose it on a November 2018 ballot question.

Outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December called on state lawmakers to at least double to state’s gas tax to fund infrastructure.

Voters’ aversion to a VMT tax is understandable – Illinoisans already get hit with layers of taxation everywhere they shop and live, especially at the pump. While the HB 2864 pilot program promises a per-mile user fee in place of state gas taxes, it provides no method that participating drivers would recoup the taxes they pay at the pump.

At a time when the state is facing down mounting debt and deficits, taxpayers have little trust in state government to reliably implement a VMT tax and not take advantage of this newfound source of revenue.

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