Illinois gas tax doubles; New texting and driving, minimum wage laws go into effect Monday

ByCraig Wall, Liz Nagy, and Alexis McAdams WLS logo
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Illinois gas tax doubles as new laws go into effect Monday
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If you drive in Illinois, expect to pay more to fill up your gas tank as a new gas tax increase went into effect Monday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- If you drive in Illinois, expect to pay more to fill up your gas tank as a new gas tax increase went into effect Monday.

The state's $0.19-per-gallon fuel tax doubled to $0.38 per-gallon. Municipalities also have the right to tack on another $0.03 per gallon to the gas tax, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she has no plans to do that in Chicago yet. She said city officials will look for other revenue sources first.

Drivers who have a car with a 15 gallon tank, which is average, will pay an extra $2.85 to fill up. This is the first time the state has changed the gas tax since 1990; experts said it would not have stayed at $0.19 if it had been scaled for inflation.

VIDEO: New laws go into effect July 1st

If you drive in Illinois, expect to pay more to fill up your gas tank as a new gas tax increase went into effect Monday.

The gas tax increase is part of a $45 billion spending plan just signed by Governor JB Pritzker to upgrade roads, bridges, parks and university buildings statewide. Additional revenue for those projects will also come from increased cigarette taxes and expanded gambling.

The cigarette tax will go up by $1, from $1.98 to $2.98 a pack and e-cigarettes will be taxed at a rate of 15 percent.

The state has not had a capital improvement plan in 10 years. Pritzker said it will provide hundreds of thousands of jobs while also fixing the crumbling infrastructure.

"Our goal is to make these some of the best roads in the nation, and some of the best roads you've driven on in decades," the governor said.

Drivers said it will cause them to dig deeper into their pockets.

"I got to do it about twice a week seeing as I work all the way downtown, so a 20 minute drive. You got to do it two or three times a week, you are looking at $200 coming out of your paycheck just for gas just to get you the job to pay for the gas. That's insane. It's not right. It's like, how do you expect somebody to survive?" said driver Jerome Sharp.

The Illinois gas tax doubled Monday, which was enough to send some drivers across the border into Indiana.

The increase is enough to send some drivers across the Indiana border to fill up. At 103rd Street gas is $3.49, but less than four miles away, just across the state line, drivers swarmed the pumps to pay less than $3.

"Sometimes it's like $0.30 different but now it's like $0.50," said Danny Lethan. "Yeah, that's real money when you're buying 20 gallons of gas, or a 38 gallon tank. That's a lot of money."

And Raquel Clark has decided to quit driving for Uber.

"It's not worth it," she said. "To me, it's not worth it unless they go up on paying."

Nearly $5 billion will go to transit agencies like the CTA and Metra for much needed public transportation improvements. For some, paying more at the pump is worth the tradeoff if it will reduce the breakdowns in trains and rail switches, which have caused numerous rush hour nightmares at Union Station.

"I think the cars look like they're 40 years old, everything just seems like it is in disrepair most of the time," said Tom Cumbo, Metra commuter. "They run on time most of the time, but they could really use a shot in the arm from this kind of tax."

All the improvements also mean jobs; lots of them.

"With these investments we're creating and supporting hundreds of thousands of new jobs in our state, including right here in the city of Chicago," Pritzker said Monday. "This isn't just an infrastructure plan, it's a job creation plan, the likes of which our state has never seen."

With the ongoing increases in gas prices and more taxes piling up, some are opting for motorized skateboards and scooters.

"It is a really easy, convenient and cost-effective way to get around the city," said David Kinnich of Skate Kastle.

Kinnich said he invested in a scooter so he could stray from the pump. He even started a company that sells locks and accessories for electronic scooters, as more people in Illinois choose electric over gas.

There is also a new cell phone law where anyone caught using their cell phone while driving will face a fine starting at $75 rather than receive a warning on the first offense.

License plate fees are going up by $50, beginning in the 2020 registration year. Also, the owners of electric vehicles will be charged $248 in new fees.

There is good news for some people. Starting Monday, the minimum wage in Chicago and some Cook County suburbs increases to $13 and $12 per-hour, respectively, so people are reminded to double check their next paycheck.