SPRINGFIELD — Every August, Sandy Fulgenzi shuts down the restaurant she owns with her husband, John, and stands along Sangamon Avenue waving a flag trying to get folks to pay to park in their parking lot.
She mans the parking lot for 14 hours per day during the 10 days of the Illinois State Fair. She does it because it is the only revenue they have coming in during that time.
State government is going to make life just a little more difficult for the pair of 72-year-olds. In 2020, it will impose a new parking tax.
“When the State Fair is going on, no one wants to deal with the traffic and eat here. We’ve tried to stay open, and it just doesn’t work,” Sandy said with a sigh.
The Fulgenzis have owned their small restaurant on Springfield’s north end for 40 years. Similar to any small business, it can be a trying experience.
“I always say, if I ever win the lottery, I’m going to buy the 10 people I like the least restaurants. I can’t think of a better way to get even,” John said with a smile.
He is perplexed by why the state is targeting parking for higher taxes.
“We already pay income taxes on all the money we bring in, and we pay property taxes. Now, they want us to pay a parking tax?”
The state is taxing parking to pay for nontransportation related infrastructure.
Under the new law, the tax is 9 percent on spaces that are rented by the month or by the year.
A tax of 6 percent is applied to spaces that are paid for on an hourly, daily or weekly basis.
State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, supported the parking tax legislation, but added it never was the intent of lawmakers to tax people such as the Fulgenzis.
“The idea behind this was to tax those big parking garages in downtown Chicago,” he said. “I wanted to make sure it didn’t tax municipal parking garages in Springfield, but it never occurred to anyone that it might affect parking near the state fair.”
Homeowners near places such as the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, the John Deere Classic in Silvis or Wrigley Field in Chicago rent out their yards for parking. They, too, would pay the tax if four or more cars park there.
“Some days, we rent out 15 spots and some days 50,” John Fulgenzi said. “But we don’t rent out 50 very often.” Typically, the charge is $5 for a parking space.
Collecting and paying the parking excise tax to the state each month will be a headache for small-time operators.
“I’ll have to hire a bookkeeper or accountant to take care of this each month, and that will just increase my cost of doing business,” said Tony Leone, who owns about 200 parking spaces in downtown Springfield. “As for the tax, I’m just passing it on to the customer.”
He said he already has notified his renters he is increasing the monthly rate from $40 to $45.
“You can’t treat downstate Illinois like it is Chicago,” he said.
Leone noted downstate lacks the types of lucrative private parking garages that are found near O’Hare International Airport and Chicago’s downtown.
Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research at the Illinois Policy Institute, said with this new tax and existing county and municipal taxes, only New York City will have higher parking taxes in the United States.
“I don’t think this is how Chicago wants to be the Second City,” he said.
So, why are Illinois’ politicians choosing to tax parking to pay for infrastructure rather than raising an existing tax?
The reason is straight forward. They are counting on your ignorance. Their sincere hope is you will blame the parking lot owners for your higher rates, rather than the lawmakers who imposed the tax on them.
They don’t want to bear voters’ wrath for increasing the sales or income taxes or cutting state services. So, they chose to sneak a tax hike in and hope you won’t blame them.