MPC supports HB 1, HB 2359 to fund, reform Illinois’ capital investment plan - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC supports HB 1, HB 2359 to fund, reform Illinois’ capital investment plan

MPC supports a motor fuel tax increase Illinois provided it is coupled with accountability measures that will ensure smart spending of limited transportation dollars.

Are our transportation investments reducing congestion and improving mobility?

As Springfield lawmakers ramp up discussion about a long-overdue state capital investment plan to maintain and expand Illinois’ roads, bridges and transit – partially funded by a proposed increase in the state motor fuel tax – MPC continues to push for HB2359, recently introduced by Ill. Rep. Kathy Ryg (D-Vernon Hills), which would fundamentally change how the state selects transportation projects for funding. MPC supports the increase of the motor fuel tax (HB 1) provided it is coupled with accountability measures that will ensure smart spending of limited transportation dollars.

MPC will not support any proposal to raise revenues for transportation capital that does not include the necessary policy reforms to unleash the growth potential of regions through coordinated planning and transparency in capital expenditures (HB 2359). In today’s struggling economy, raising Illinois’ motor fuel tax is a tough decision. The fuel tax is a regressive tax and could put Illinois at a competitive disadvantage to adjacent states with lower gas prices. On the other hand, MPC favors transportation user fees, and the Illinois gas tax has not been raised since 1999. After weighing these considerations, MPC believes an increase in the gas tax is necessary to generate new, much-needed revenue, given the dire state of Illinois’ transportation network and the lack of funding alternatives that could be implemented immediately.

Illinois’ transportation needs verge on $44 billion, and unemployment has reached its highest level in more than 15 years. Thus, we cannot be sure an 8 cent per gallon increase will be an adequate long-term funding solution. Such an increase would provide anywhere from $500 to $600 million a year to help jumpstart Illinois’ long-overdue capital programs; but it is a short-term solution that will not provide a lasting, sustainable source of revenue, especially as vehicle efficiency standards increase and fuel purchases decrease.

The National Highway Trust Fund already has gone bankrupt. It is evident that revenue reforms at both the federal and state level must be made to maintain our transportation network and ensure it is operating efficiently and safely.  Even as we implement selection criteria, new revenue sources must be explored to provide a healthy, steady funding source for the expansion and modernization of the transportation system of the future. Other states are studying and exploring new ways to fund their ailing transportation systems, including a vehicle miles tax or congestion pricing system. In Illinois, moderate increases in driver’s license fees or creation of a weight-based vehicle registration fee should also be considered as options for generating additional investment in a more efficient transportation mix. 

Regardless of revenue sources, Illinois needs to fundamentally change the way it funds transportation projects. Establishing an accountable and transparent system for deciding how our limited transportation dollars are spent will provide the residents and businesses of this state with a process for making make smart investment decisions that yield a measurable return. These reforms are critical to building a sustainable and competitive Illinois.

For more information, please contact Peter Skosey, MPC Vice President, at 312-863-6004 or pskosey@metroplanning.org.

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