Riders for Better Transit will hold a press conference this morning at Pritzker Park to announce that Active Transportation Alliance and its partners will introduce legislation in Springfield that would raise the state gas tax and index it to inflation. Speakers will include Steve Schlickman, current director of the Urban Transportation Center (UTC) at UIC and former executive director of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), and Jennifer Henry, transportation policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council and often quoted here.
The state gas tax, currently at a fixed rate of 19 cents per gallon, has been stuck there for 22 years (since January 1, 1990). Stuck meaning that roadways and transit cannot always have the maintenance they need. The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents, the rate since 1993. Both are flat fees and do not change when the price of gas changes. A majority of the price of a gallon of gas is not taken up by taxes. Additionally, buyers in Illinois are charged a standard state sales tax of 6.25% – other cities and counties have their own taxes.
The gas tax is unsustainably low: revenues from gas taxes are not sufficient to pay for roads that people drive, bike, and uses buses on (the Illinois Tollway system notwithstanding). Funding is then taken from general revenue sources to make up the difference. Revenues from gas taxes also go to support transit, which helps reduce congestion on existing and highly congested roads.