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Gas Station Owners Warn Against Fuel Tax Increase

Amanda Vinicky

  A coalition of Illinois gas station owners say they're wary of a plan to increase motor fuel taxes. Opponents say it would cause too much pain at the pump.

Engineers, the state Chamber of Commerce, and local mass transit agencies have a strategy to shore up the state's deteriorating highway network and other infrastructure needs: a strategy that includes raising Illinois' tax on gas, which hasn't seen an increase in 24 years.

For now, it's just a plan; no state lawmaker has committed to supporting that proposal.

Still, petroleum distributors are coming out against it.

Carl Adams, president of Illinois Ayers Oil Company, says he'd lose business. Adams is based in Quincy, on the border of Illinois and Missouri, only 40 miles from Iowa. He says Illinois already has a higher gasoline tax than its neighbors.

"People when they go to Missouri to buy their gasoline, they buy their cigarettes, they buy their candy, they buy their soda, they buy their beer, they buy their lottery at the same time," he said. "Those are all lost revenues for Illinois retailers and the state of Illinois."

But Bill Fleischli, with the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association, says before the state looks to raise more revenues, it should use what it has in the road fund, a pot of money that's supposed to be dedicated to funding road work.

A 2013 audit found that Illinois often uses money in that fund for other expenses Fleischli says taxpayers should know the true costs of road repair.

"How much do we pay for concrete, how much do we pay for asphalt, how much do we pay for rebar, how much do we pay for this and that?" he said. "Before you come and double the program, we ought to think that they're getting the best bang for their buck."

The advocates for a motor fuel tax hike say that will boost revenue enough to set the stage for long-term improvements, instead of repairing in short bursts that can be more expensive. They also say that say businesses, including gas stations, depend on a reliable highway system.

No legislator as signed on to push that package through the General Assembly.

Hannah covers state government and politics for Capitol News Illinois. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at WILL-AM/FM, Law360, Capitol Fax and The Daily Line before returning to NPR Illinois in 2020 and moving to CNI in 2023.
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