AP NEWS

Board now can ask for gas-tax authority

May 16, 2019

SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Board passed a resolution Wednesday to ask the state’s permission to impose a gas tax, but that doesn’t mean area drivers will see an increase.

At least not from the county.

The resolution allows the county to ask state lawmakers to include DeKalb County in the Illinois County Code, allowing it to impose an up to 4 cents a gallon fuel tax. DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties are already listed similarly.

However, the board will sit on the resolution and first see if the state adjusts its own motor fuel tax, County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski said.

“We want to have the ability to do it in the future, so we’re not left out in the dark if they never want to bring it up again,” Pietrowski said. “We have no desire to necessarily act on anything right now.”

The state currently charges a fuel tax of 19 cents a gallon, a rate that hasn’t changed since the 1990s and lawmakers are taking a second look at. A bill in Springfield would increase the gas tax from 19 cents to 44 cents.

A general agreement on a $2 trillion national capital spending bill would also include an increase in the national gas tax, which is 18.4 cents a gallon.

County Engineer Nathan Schwartz said that because of the uncertainty from the state Legislature, acting on the resolution soon could save the county millions. He cited the Highway Department’s chief project of upgrading the county’s highways to handle a weight limit of 80,000 pounds – one that will cost $113 million in today’s dollars.

“If we do that over a 20-year cycle or a 50-year cycle, depending on how much money we have, the total amount is going to be well above

$113 million, so the sooner we can start tackling this endeavor, the cheaper the overall cost is going to be,” Schwartz said.

Another factor in the waiting game is whether the state will pass a bill that would raise the maximum 4 cents a gallon that a county can impose as a part of the Illinois County Code to

8 cents a gallon, Schwartz said.

Board member Tim Bagby, a Republican who represents District 3, opposed the resolution. He said he was worried it was passed too hastily.

“Right now there are credible discussions going on at the federal level and at the state level to increase the fuel tax, and while those discussions are going on these increases are as close to coming to fruition as they have in recent years,” Bagby said. “I think it would be a bit onerous to put another 4 to 8 cents on DeKalb County purchasers of gasoline if those two increases are already likely to hit.”

Other County Board business

The board formally recognized a vacancy for District 7, a seat formerly occupied by Democrat Misty Haji-Sheikh. Haji-Sheikh resigned at a board meeting March 20.