Chicago’s city gas tax would be highest in the nation under new ordinance

Worried about pain at the pump? Chicago gas taxes would become even higher under a proposal from 36th Ward Ald. Gilbert Villegas.

The alderman’s ordinance, introduced April 13, would hike the city’s motor fuel tax to 12 cents per gallon from 5 cents per gallon – a whopping 140 percent increase that would make Chicago’s city-level motor fuel tax the highest in the nation, according to research from the American Petroleum Institute.

Villegas’ office estimates the hike would raise nearly $70 million, which would go into a special fund dedicated to the repair and maintenance of roads, highways, bridges and other public ways.

Due to multiple layers of taxation, Chicagoans often end up paying the highest gas prices in the nation already. In addition to a state sales tax on gas, Cook County and the city of Chicago each levy additional per-gallon taxes.

In fact, Cook County is looking to hike its gas tax as well. A proposal from Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin would hike the county’s gas tax to 10 cents per gallon from 6 cents per gallon, and use the estimated $50 million taken from drivers to fund anti-violence programming.

Pothole politics

If Chicago aldermen are really worried about potholes, they should start by loosening their grip on the city’s road-maintenance process. As things stand, the city’s 50 aldermen get to decide which roads receive preferential treatment in their respective wards. Standardizing how the city decides which roads to resurface would save time and money, according to a December 2015 report from the office of the inspector general.

The residential roads aldermen control make up nearly 75 percent of all thoroughfares in the city, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. The average resident shouldn’t have to suffer worse roads and higher taxes to fix them just to protect political leverage for aldermen.

Furthermore, proponents of gas-tax hikes at the city and county level have failed to introduce reforms to better maintain roads at a lower cost to taxpayers.

Chicago is home to the Midwest’s most expensive workers’ compensation system, as well as prevailing wage laws that give construction workers on public projects higher wages than their industry peers. Both of these cost drivers eat up scarce dollars that could be used for better maintenance and new projects.

Until Chicago politicians make efforts to get more bang for taxpayers’ buck on infrastructure spending, they haven’t earned the right to hit up drivers for more money.

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