Pritzker pushes ‘Time to Drive’ tourism campaign despite high gas prices

Pritzker pushes ‘Time to Drive’ tourism campaign despite high gas prices

When Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state lawmakers doubled the gas tax in 2019, they built in automatic annual increases. The next boost hits July 1. Perfect timing, as Pritzker spends $6 million to ask Illinoisans to take a drive.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is encouraging road trips just as Illinois drivers face $3.24 a gallon gas prices ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

Gasoline averaged $3.24 in Illinois, with Chicago at $3.58 on May 26. The national average was $3.03.

Doing the opposite of what Pritzker advocates is the cheaper option: Every state surrounding Illinois had gasoline cheaper than $3 per gallon, with Missouri the cheapest at $2.73.

Illinois gas is higher because in 2019 the state doubled its gasoline tax and built in automatic inflationary spikes every July 1  – a move that saved state lawmakers from the political backlash of voting for future gas tax increases. The gas tax is next set to increase by one-half penny per gallon starting July 1, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The boost will mean the average driver in Illinois will be paying $105.67 more per year than they did before the gas tax doubled.

July 1 will mark Illinois’ third motor fuel tax increase in as many years. Rates doubled to $0.38 per gallon from $0.19 in July 2019, then to $0.387 in 2020 and will hit $0.392 on July 1.

After the last automatic increase in 2020, Illinois’ average gas taxes ranked third highest in the nation. Illinois is one of the few states that charge sales taxes atop all the other taxes and fees, essentially taxing the taxes on a gallon of gas.

Pritzker is currently pushing Illinoisans and drivers from neighboring states to take a road trip in Illinois. The “Time For Me to Drive” campaign is a $6 million initiative aimed at jump-starting state tourism.

“After an incredibly difficult year in which the pandemic kept us all close to home and staying apart, lifesaving vaccines are bringing us back to life and heading toward a summer of fun and venturing out,” Pritzker said May 12.

Pritzker has predicted Illinois will “fully reopen” by June 11, with mask mandates still in place.

Illinois has options other than continually, automatically increasing gasoline taxes. Funding state infrastructure through a targeted, merit-based approach that prioritizes renovations and helping the greatest number of drivers – rather than based on which politician gets a photo op next to a shiny new bridge – delivers better taxpayer value. House Bill 253 proposes just such a system, similar to Virginia’s SMART Scale program.

Contact your state lawmaker and ask that they co-sponsor HB 253 to support smart road, bridge and infrastructure spending in Illinois. Then they can repeal the state’s too-high gasoline taxes.

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