Enjoy those gas prices hovering below the $3 mark? Do so while you can.
Last weekend, the state Legislature approved doubling the gas tax to 38 cents per gallon, up from 19 cents. It takes effect in July.
I drive a lot, so I’m unhappy about this. But I can understand it.
The gas tax was last increased in 1990. If the tax had kept up with inflation, it would be 37 cents today.
One of Illinois’ selling points is its roads, so we need to make sure they’re maintained. Truth be told, they’re in bad shape.
The average American uses 656 gallons of gas per year, according the the U.S. Energy Information Administration. At that amount, a person’s state gas tax bill will go up $124, or about $2.40 per week, which is significant for a lot of people.
Last weekend, legislators increased the annual license plate fee to $151, from $101.
These increases are more palatable because voters in 2016 approved the “lockbox” constitutional amendment, which requires legislators to use transportation fees and taxes for transportation projects. This is so politicians don’t spend this money elsewhere, as they have in the past. The amendment applies to the gas tax and the license plate fee.
If you imagine tax-happy, liberal Illinois as being alone in spiking gas taxes, you’d be wrong. Just this year, neighboring Indiana increased its tax by 10 cents, to 28 cents. Alabama did the same. These are staunchly Republican states, mind you.
This shows it doesn’t matter whether you are a Republican or a Democrat when it comes to desiring better roads and bridges.
That’s probably why we’ll see a gas tax before too long at the federal level. The federal gas tax has stood at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. If it had kept pace with inflation, it would be 32 cents today.
With inflation, unchanged state and federal gas taxes have meant less money, in real terms, for roads. While this is a rare respite from our ever-growing tax burden, it’s unreasonable to continue the status quo. As China builds gleaming superhighways, our roads and bridges are crumbling.
This is unacceptable. What is acceptable is a gas tax hike, as long as the money is spent well.