Re-elect Dan Lipinski Congressman

A Gas Tax for Illinois Roads and Transit Gains Some D.C. Momentum

07/25/2018

Crain's Chicago Business

For the first time in, well, a very long time, a ranking congressional Republican has rolled out an infrastructure plan that includes a hike in the gasoline tax. And while the proposal is in the early stages, it could mean an additional $1 billion a year for Illinois road and transit projects, according to a Chicago congressman.

The proposal comes from Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the chairman of the House Transportation Committee. In a new "discussion draft" that amounts to an informal legislative proposal, Schuster said the nation is spending far too little on infrastructure for its economic health and proposed a new financing scheme based on hikes of 15 cents a gallon on gasoline and 20 cents on diesel fuel that would be phased in over three years and corresponding levies on other transportation products, such as a 10 percent tax on bicycle tires.

All those levies and more would remain in effect until 2028, by which time a national commission would recommend a new financing method, possibly including a mileage tax, Shuster said.

The proposal already is drawing fire from some anti-tax groups, and Shuster's hopes of passing it in a lame-duck session after the November election is a real stretch, says Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Chicago, who serves on the transportation panel. But it could serve as the basis for action later, particularly if Democrats take control of the House in November, Lipinski said.

Among other things, according to Lipinski, the draft would ramp up funding for general needs that generally has been flat, and set aside $500 million a year for "projects of national significance," such as the CREATE freight rail decongestion program here, Lipinski said. It also would permanently extend the TIGER program Chicago in particular has used for a variety of projects.

If nothing else, the proposal by Shuster, who is retiring at the end of this term, puts down a marker for reauthorization of the current year's federal surface transportation authorization bill, which expires in October of 2020. While the proposal is not perfect, there are some things in there that could help.

Despite calls from President Donald Trump and others to expand infrastructure spending, Congress largely has been stymied, mostly over how to raise the money. The federal gasoline tax has been frozen for decades, forcing lawmakers to dip into other funds to shore up the Highway Trust Fund. A few states have begun raising their gas taxes again, but Illinois is not included.

Trump also has called for more public-private partnerships, but to work, they have to throw off a revenue stream that can be turned into a profit.


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