Scrap plan to cut city’s fuel tax by three cents

Such a move by the mayor, tempting as it may be, would rob $18 million from the city’s bridge maintenance, street paving and snow removal budget,

SHARE Scrap plan to cut city’s fuel tax by three cents
Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to provide relief at the gas pump by temporarily rolling back a 3 cents per gallon fuel tax increase.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to provide relief at the gas pump by temporarily rolling back a 3 cents per gallon fuel tax increase.

Scott Olson/Getty

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s desire to throw a lifeline to Chicago motorists by temporarily rolling back this year’s 3-cents-a-gallon fuel tax increase is understandable, gas prices being what they are these days.

“I’ve talked to residents who are saying, ‘I can’t afford to fill up my tank. I’m riding on a quarter of a tank,’ ” Lightfoot said last week. “That’s not the way people should have to live.”

She’s right; it isn’t. But deep-sixing the fuel tax until Dec. 31 is not the solution.

Such a move, tempting as it may be, would rob sorely-needed money — $18 million — from the city’s bridge maintenance, street paving and snow removal budget.

And who knows if drivers would feel any savings, especially given the upward volatility of gas prices right now.

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‘Not the 3 cents’ that hurts consumers

Lightfoot’s plan would shave 3 cents off the city’s current 8 cents a gallon gas tax, an earmarked revenue stream that generates $65 million a year.

Losing $18 million of that amount won’t crush the city’s infrastructure and road repair budget, but it won’t help it either. As Chicago heads into the spring thaw/pothole season, having a proper budget to keep the streets in good repair is critical.

What good is saving 50 or 60 cents on a fill-up if it places you at risk of busting an axle on an un-repaired street crater?

The mayor’s City Council floor leader, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), knows the three-penny reduction isn’t much given the price for regular gas is nearing $5 a gallon. But, she said, “every little bit helps when people are struggling.”

City Council Transportation Chair Howard Brookins (21st) makes a better point.

“People need significant relief,” he said. “And it is not 3 cents that they’re hurting over. It’s almost a dollar more a gallon that is really hitting people in the pocketbooks.”

Vote postponed

The City Council Finance Committee was set to decide on Lightfoot’s gas tax reduction this week, but the vote was postponed.

“Our team is currently working through plans to create a unique and impactful policy that will serve the needs of our residents with diverse transportation choices,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

“Once that plan is finalized, it will be taken up as part of the Budget Committee.”

Part of that “unique and impactful policy” should be to drop the fuel tax reduction idea entirely.

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