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General Assembly Approves Rollback Of Much-Reviled Trailer License Plate Fee


A measure that would cut down the license plate fee for utility trailers from $118 to $36 passed both the Illinois House and Senate over the holiday weekend — a move spurred by a flood of complaints to lawmakers after the price increased two years ago.

Buying a license plate for utility trailers — wheeled platforms that can carry large items like boats, snowmobiles, lawnmowers and other equipment behind a car or truck — jumped $100 from the previous $18 to $118 after lawmakers approved a $45 billion infrastructure plan two years ago.

Ever since the plate fee increased in order to help fund a 2019 capital bill, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have called for its reduction. Some legislators, including State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur), claimed the fee increase had an adverse effect and led to fewer trailers, and thus fewer purchased plates, on Illinois roads.

“I know people who quit using their trailers,” Scherer said. “I know people who would just take a risk and drive it without a plate. I know people who would switch it from one to another….we were probably losing money instead of making money.”

Other lawmakers said the trailer fee cost has been one of the primary issues their offices’ received calls on during the spring session.

“It’s become the third most important issue to my constituents behind [the Illinois Department of Employment Security] and [the state’s Firearm Owner Identification Card application backlog],” State Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville) said. “Maybe we can fix those as well this week?”

In addition to lowering utility trailer plate fees for trailers that weigh less than 2,000 pounds, the proposal also outlines a new sales tax rate for motor vehicle trade-ins (with a $10,100 cap), would eliminate the need for duplicate titles, and would increase motor vehicle title fees from $150 to $155.

Illinoisans who have already purchased a “TA” trailer plate from the Secretary of State’s office for utility trailers would not need to purchase the new “UT” plate.

The proposal’s chief sponsor, State Rep. Marcus Evans Jr. (D-Chicago) said with these additional changes, the proposal will be cost neutral and won’t negatively impact capital project funding.

“It's my understanding there's more title transactions,” Evans said. “It's a smaller number, but...the volume is greater, so they’ll still even out.”

Both the House and Senate approved the measure, but it hasn’t yet been sent to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk.

State Rep. Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines) joked during the bill’s House debate that he’d finally be able to resume his seasonal activities...though likely not until it’s significantly colder.

“Now I can take my little snowmobile in my little trailer and troll down the highway for a reasonable price,” Moylan said.

Derek Cantù is NPR Illinois' graduate student Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2021 legislative session.
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