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Illinois Gov. Pritzker Looks To Tax, Fee Hikes For $41.5B Capital Bill

By Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold, WBEZ

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday proposed a $41.5 billion infrastructure package reliant on hikes in gasoline taxes, vehicle registration fees and an assortment of other revenue increases.

The plan was laid out to legislative leaders in the General Assembly on Friday, and WBEZ obtained a draft of the governor’s plan. It comes with two weeks left in the spring legislative session, where a broad swath of the Pritzker agenda awaits action by Illinois lawmakers.

“Today, Illinois’ infrastructure is in dire shape,” the draft states.

“In short, significant investments are needed to ensure Illinois’ infrastructure is repaired, maintained, and consistently prioritized year after year,” the report reads. “There is wide, bipartisan agreement that the time is now to make critical investments.”

But those investments would come at a cost to Illinoisans.

The six-year plan would double the state’s current gasoline tax, increasing it by 19 cents a gallon. Existing state vehicle registration fees now set at $101 would jump as high as $199 and scale downward based on the age of a vehicle. Electric vehicle registration fees would jump from $34 every other year to $250 every year.

In order to pay for Illinois’ first multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan since 2009, Pritzker’s draft calls for the state to introduce new taxes on a host of things state government had never taxed before.

Those include a $1-per-ride tax on all ridesharing, such as Uber and Lyft; a 7% tax on cable, satellite and streaming services such as Netflix; and a tax of up to 9% on the use of parking garages. Pritzker would also increase existing taxes on liquor and video gambling terminals.

For Chicago, the package would contain $350 million in funding to address rail congestion and traffic-related delays. Another $126 million would go toward a new state public health laboratory in Chicago, according to the draft.

The Regional Transportation Authority would get $3.2 billion in new infrastructure dollars, including $60 million for repairs at the Chicago Transit Authority’s Green Line Cottage Grove station.

The plan also would set aside $230 million to reconstruct the Illinois Veterans Home in downstate Quincy, the site of multiple Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks and the subject of a yearlong investigation by WBEZ.

Billions of additional dollars would be earmarked for school and university buildings across the state.

“As a result of working group sessions with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle from both chambers of the General Assembly, the administration is working on a preliminary draft of a comprehensive capital plan that will put 540,000 Illinoisans back to work and finally fix our crumbling infrastructure,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement.

“The administration looks forward to continuing to [engage] in productive conversations before the proposal is finalized,” she said.

The plan drew early praise from Pritzker’s allies in the state legislature.

“As the Senate has gone around the state and led this bipartisan effort, there have been many changes, and I expect many more to come,” state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, tweeted after the report began trickling out Friday afternoon.

“What you have here is an early draft of what a framework could look like,” said Sandoval, who has been holding infrastructure hearings statewide. “Going forward, I hope the governor’s as committed as I’ve been to an open, bipartisan process.”

Meanwhile, at least one top Republican in Springfield seemed to be holding his fire for Pritzker’s plan, despite the raft of tax and fee increases.

“Members of my caucus, who were part of the capital working group, received a briefing on the governor’s proposal this afternoon,” said Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady. R-Bloomington. “We look forward to these discussions continuing as we work toward a plan that addresses our state’s critical infrastructure needs and creates jobs.”

This article originally appeared in WBEZ.

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