Local experts in the transportation industry are offering up thank yous to state lawmakers who backed the state's recent capital bill.
Todd Weist of Tri-State Asphalt, LLC in Morris said local members of the asphalt, transportation, and trucking industries came together as a group to thank state legislators who cast 'yes' votes for the bill and its accompanying gas tax increase. Weist and others invited 75th Dist. State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, to a special event on Thursday marking the bill's passage.
"What a lot of people don't understand, with how it affects the state as a whole, is that we are the crossroads of all transportation modes throughout most of the nation," Weist said. "Whether it's rail, whether it's trucks, whether it's cars, whatever it may be, we are the crossroads. And as we spend money and develop infrastructure, it brings tax revenue in, and that's what the state needs right now."
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the six-year, $45 billion capital infrastructure plan into law in June.
The “Rebuild Illinois” plan allocates $33.2 billion for transportation, including funds earmarked for road and bridge repairs and public transit.
The most visible item for consumers is a 19-cent increase to the motor fuel tax to fund that plan, which went into effect on July 1. The motor fuel tax on regular gasoline and diesel fuel both increased to 38 cents per gallon, up from 19 cents, while an additional fee on diesel rose from 2.5 cents to 7.5 cents per gallon. The motor fuel tax increase is expected to bring in $1.3 billion in added infrastructure funding.
That money is an investment in the state that benefits everyone, Welter said.
"Adding another tax on to the folks, I know for a lot of people feels pretty difficult," Welter said. "I'm a conservative, I don't believe the government should be involved in every little aspect of your life. But when it comes to things we do need to be involved with, protecting our country, taking care of those who can't take care of themselves, and investing in our infrastructure are right up there at the very top. It shouldn't be a democrat or a republican issue."
Welter said the capital bill was good for the region in general, but acknowledged that the public needs to be better informed on how the money will be spent. He added that the state's "lockbox" amendment will force the money to be used only on infrastructure, and not spread around to other areas where there may be budget shortfalls.
"It's a trust issue, but this is one where we protected that, and I'm going to make sure as long as I'm in Springfield and representing this area that our money is doled out the way it should be," he said. "I would remind you that every local government, your city, your county, is receiving more motor fuel dollars."
Welter added that the capital bill was truly a bi-partisan effort in the state legislature. After this year, the motor fuel tax will increase annually by the consumer price index, capped at a 1 cent per-year increase.
The Transportation for Illinois Coalition also supported the gas tax increase. According to the coalition's website, the average driver will pay approximately $20 more per month on gas with the new tax now in effect, money that will be directly applied to address failing roads and bridges throughout the state.
Additional funding sources for the bill include a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes, expected to generate about $159 million in revenue for the next fiscal year. Fee increases for licenses and registrations will also go toward funding, but do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2020.