Cain: Group warns that gas prices could rise 33 cents a gallon
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain On Businessemail@example.com August 16, 2013 9:06PM
Updated: September 19, 2013 9:57AM
No one wants to see gas prices go any higher. Ever.
But there is a move afoot in Illinois to change the way the state’s Motor Fuel Tax is levied on a gallon of gas. Currently, the MFT is a flat 19 cents per gallon, regardless of the cost of a price of gas. That flat tax is added to the fluctuating sales taxes tacked on by home rule municipalities in the state.
The Transportation for Illinois Coalition, which is made up of state chamber and union officials, is working to get the MFT changed to a percentage. That way if gas prices go up, the amount of money that goes into Illinois coffers increases. And there would be more money for roadwork in the state, which is desperately needed, they say.
Without new sources of revenue, the state’s road fund will drop from $3.5 billion this year to $1.5 billion by 2018, the group said when it stopped in Joliet in April.
The coalition has officials with the Illinois Petroleum Council concerned. They say the change would increase the cost per gallon of gas by about 33 cents per gallon.
“We’re not against any type of funds that are going to go toward capital road improvements,” said petroleum council spokesman Jim Watson.
But what the council is opposed to is the state’s “habit of taking close to half of those (MFT) funds and using them for other purposes,” he said.
“This year the General Assembly spent a billion and a half more dollars than they did last year when they had a $500 million hole (in the budget),” Watson added. “If roads are important then make them important. That’s our struggle and that’s our challenge.”
As the General Assembly gears up to head back into the veto session this fall, the council plans to ramp up its campaign to squash this move.
AFSCME union march
Things still don’t seem to be going well with contract talks between Will County and it’s largest employees union, the 1,200 member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers Local 1028.
The union has scheduled a “March and Rally” for a fair contract at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at the courthouse, 14 W. Jefferson St.
“As a resident of Will County you know how important public services provided by county employees are to your community — the court system and the jail, disease prevention and mental health treatment, the county nursing home, the coroner, and much more,” wrote AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer.
According to Bayer’s email to union members, county negotiators “... are still refusing to agree to even a modest raise — while at the same time demanding big increases in employee health care costs.”
Bayer encouraged AFSCME members county wide to join the county workers.
“If an employer like Will County can get away with driving down the standard of living of its employees, you can be sure that other employers will be emboldened to follow suit.”
County board has ‘open ears’
The fact that union workers are unhappy is clear to Will County Board members, who will ultimately vote on the contract. Board members have been receiving letters, visits and phone calls from unhappy union workers, board Speaker Herb Brooks Jr., D-Joliet, said at Thursday’s meeting.
“I want you all to know and all of our county employees to know that we’re very much concerned about them and we do have open ears.”
So what’s the problem? The county’s health insurance increased $4 million in 2013 and every one percent of salary increase costs the county about $1.2 million. There’s the tax cap, a tight budget and the voters unwillingness to see property taxes rise, so it will be interesting to see how this all gets resolved.
Send email to ccain@stmedianetwork or find me on Twitter @CindyWojCain.