Leaders of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition announced April 1 a new legislative push to provide about $1.8 billion a year for investing in the state’s deteriorating infrastructure and fix thousands of mi. of roads, bridges, rail systems and airports.
TFIC — an umbrella organization of labor, business and construction groups — spent 2013 traveling to approximately two dozen communities around Illinois and having meetings with dozens of legislators to educate and advocate for a renewed focus on the importance of a strong transportation system. The input from those meetings has helped shape the proposal being announced to provide a steady revenue stream needed to pay for significant investment in long-overdue projects.
The $1.8 billion in annual revenue would fund both pay-as-you-go spending and a bonding program that would get the state’s roads to 90 percent acceptable condition, 93 percent acceptable condition for bridges and millions of dollars for long-overdue transit improvements in the Chicagoland area. The funding would be split:
• 80 percent for roads, bridges and airports
• 20 percent for transit needs — the first ongoing funding for the congested Chicagoland network
• 60 percent of the road and bridge funding would go to the state’s network, and 40 percent to local roads
• This would be the first ongoing increase in local funding since 1999 and get those roads also to 90 percent satisfactory condition
The $1.8 billion in revenues would come from these sources:
• Ensuring all state sales tax revenue from motor fuel goes to transportation needs
• Ending the ethanol credit for gasoline
• Increasing the state motor fuel tax on gasoline by 4 cents per gallon
• Increasing the state motor fuel tax on diesel by 7 cents per gallon
• Raising motor vehicle registration fees
• Reprioritizing spending out of road funds that now supports other government services
• Creating a state sales tax on some driver-related services, such as auto repair and oil changes
TFIC leaders emphasized that the coalition hopes the proposal serves as a template for lawmakers as they consider new capital funding heading toward the May 31 scheduled adjournment date. Leaders also stressed that while this proposal does call for more taxpayer investment in transportation infrastructure, it is investment that both is well-deserved and far short of the total needs facing roads, bridges and transit systems. A TFIC study of those needs found that the state would need to spend between $65 billion and $74 billion over the next five years to get its systems in proper shape.
"We have worked hard over the past few months, and throughout TFIC’s existence, to connect the importance of funding our infrastructure with seeing our economy grow and thrive. [April first’s] announcement is another important step down that path," said Doug Whitley, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of TFIC. "What we have proposed today is a comprehensive effort at restructuring how we invest in our transportation systems, to ensure we meet our needs and move our state forward. We are encouraged by the positive feedback we have received so far and will work closely with our legislators and the governor to turn this plan into reality."
"This is a jobs and economic recovery program, period," said Mike Kleinik, executive director of the Laborers District Council Chicago and co-chair of TFIC. "If we want a stronger economy, then we need a stronger infrastructure and a plan to pay for it. We think this is a very reasonable, very significant proposal to accomplish our goal and hope Illinois embraces this opportunity to pave our state in full and move ahead."
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