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Legal pot, Chicago casino still on horizon — but gas tax just around the bend

Just in time for summer road trips, the 19-cent bump in the gas tax will be enacted July 1 — the same day that state lawmakers will see a $1,600-a-year salary increase. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Monday.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Illinois residents may have to wait six months to smoke pot legally, but motorists will feel a hit to their wallets a lot sooner thanks to an increase in the gas tax that goes into effect next month.

Just in time for summer road trips, the 19-cent bump in the gas tax will be enacted July 1 — the same day that state lawmakers will see a $1,600-a-year salary increase.

The gas tax revenue will go to the state’s infrastructure needs.

At a meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’s inherited infrastructure repairs that have been kicked down the road for decades. He said the state has $15 billion in life safety infrastructure investments to make — and that’s just the start of it.

“Think about all the pent up demand and need — the potholes, the bridges they’re falling apart, the mass transit that we can all see everyday here in Chicago is crumbling — that needs to be done,” Pritzker said.

“So look, we have to pay for these things, and we tried to find ways to live up to our obligations to make it safe and then remember we also need to focus on economic development.”

That’ll mean building new roads in areas where there’s development that could go on and that there’s investment in communities that have “been left out frankly for far too long,” Pritzker said.

William Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association-Illinois Association of Convenience Stores, said the increase will likely hit businesses — especially those along the state’s borders — hardest.

“The public said fix the roads, but don’t raise the gas tax,” Fleischli said. “This is going to hurt volumes all over the state ... the border areas by St. Louis, Rockford, the Quad Cities — they’ll see a lot of reduction. They’ll just be gone. They can’t afford it.”

The motor club argues the tax could wind up saving drivers money.

Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for the American Automobile Association, cited a report from national transportation research group TRIP that found Chicago-based motorists pay an extra $633 a year due to additional costs, such as repairing cars because of poor road conditions.

With the money from the tax going to the state’s roads, that number should be about $164 dollars.

“Certainly Illinois has a lot of poorly maintained roads and that’s been a huge impact on motorists who drive on those roads,” Jarmusz said. “This will help alleviate poor road conditions — it actually is a net win for motorists.”