(The Center Square) – Increasing gas prices have some elected officials looking at how to find relief for Illinois consumers.
A global issue is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC limiting their production. Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said he’ll put pressure on them where he can, but didn’t say whether the U.S. should stop exporting U.S. oil.
“That debate goes back and forth as to whether or not what we’re exporting is something we can use and what impact that would have on our economy,” said Durbin, D-Springfield.
Illinois’ gas taxes are the highest in the Midwest, driving the cost to the consumer nearly a dollar more a gallon than neighboring Missouri’s average. AAA has Illinois’ gas average for regular at $4.402. Missouri’s is $3.466.
During Thursday’s gubernatorial debate with his Republican rival state Sen. Darren Bailey, Gov. J.B. Pritzker heralded his administration’s plan to give taxpayers rebates and his freezing of the annual gas tax increase.
“I’ve provided $1.8 billion in gas, grocery and property tax relief,” Pritzker said when asked if he’d consider rolling back any taxes due to inflation.
In 2019, lawmakers approved a doubling of the state’s gas tax from 19 cents a gallon to 38 cents a gallon with annual increases tied to inflation. The freeze on the 2.2-cent annual motor fuel tax increase that was supposed to take effect this past July lifts on Jan. 1.
State Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, said his constituents aren’t feeling the relief and said all of the state’s motor fuel tax and sales tax on top should be zeroed out temporarily.
“Our road fund is in great shape,” Caulkins told WMAY. “The federal government is looking at pumping billions of dollars into infrastructure projects around the country and I think we owe it to the working families. We’re getting killed everywhere else, at the grocery store and you name it. The prices are going up and I think this is one way to address that issue.”
With inflation at historic levels across the consumer landscape, Caulkins is urging leaders to call lawmakers back to session before the November election to find relief on state gas taxes.
“If we suspended all of the gas taxes for four months, five months, six months, it’s not going to have a substantial impact on our budget,” Caulkins said.
As of Friday, the Illinois Road Fund had around $1.5 billion. Illinois drivers paid more than $2.5 billion in motor fuel taxes last fiscal year.