On January 1st, a six-month pause on a scheduled gas tax increase in Illinois came to an end, but multiple pieces of legislation introduced in the General Assembly could counter the hike. The increase, originally slated for July 1st of last year, would have raised the tax by 2.2 cents per gallon, bringing it to 41.4 cents per gallon. However, Governor JB Pritzker paused the increase until the new year as part of a package that included a yearlong suspension of the 1% grocery tax.
The gas tax increase is scheduled annually for July and is tied to annual inflation calculated by the Department of Labor. The Consumer Price Index for 2022 was 8.2%, leading to an increase of approximately 3.1 cents per gallon and a total of 42.4 cents per gallon. This marks the second increase this year. Illinois currently has the second highest gas tax in the country, with only California surpassing it. According to AAA, the average price per gallon in Illinois was $3.27 on Friday, ten cents more than the national average.
The gas tax hike is a result of the passage of the Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan in 2019. The plan increased the tax from 19 cents per gallon to 38 cents in order to fund a $45 billion construction program, which is also financed by vehicle registration fees, title fees, and sales tax on motor fuel.
According to the Illinois Policy Institute, the Rebuild Illinois plan is expected to bring in $1.8 billion per year from the gas tax increase, with $1.3 billion of that going towards roads and bridges and the remaining $500 million going towards other forms of transportation, such as public transit. However, critics of the plan argue that it fails to address the root causes of Illinois’ infrastructure problems, such as mismanagement and a lack of accountability, and that it disproportionately affects low-income residents and those living in rural areas.
The 102nd Illinois General Assembly will reconvene this week for its lame duck session, where legislators may consider bills addressing the gas tax increase. One such bill, introduced by state Representative Chris Bos, would extend the pause until July 1st, 2023, and end the current requirement for motor fuel retailers to post a sign notifying customers of the pause. Failure to comply with this requirement could result in a petty offense and a $500 fee per day for the retailer.
Another bill, introduced by state Representative Ryan Spain, would drop the sales tax on motor fuel and gasohol from 6.25% to 1.25%. This decrease is the same rate seen during the state’s previous sales tax holiday in August 2022 for back-to-school shopping. The decrease in sales tax revenues would be compensated for by the state Department of Revenue feeding all of the net revenue from the 1.25% tax into the State and Local Sales Tax Reform Fund, rather than the current 20% of revenue under the 6.25% tax.
While the gas tax increase has gone into effect, it is possible that one of these pieces of legislation could provide relief for Illinoisans struggling with the rising cost of living in the state. As the debate over the gas tax continues, it is important for drivers to stay informed and consider the potential impact on their finances.