License plate fee hike falters

2012-06-01T15:15:00Z 2012-06-01T20:16:09Z License plate fee hike faltersBy Kurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
June 01, 2012 3:15 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | A plan to raise the cost of license plates to help fund Illinois state parks faltered in the Senate early Friday.

Hours after a $2 per year increase was pushed through the House, the proposal fell three votes short of passage in the Senate.

The measure, which would have boosted the annual car registration fee to $101, could be resurrected later this year.

Gov. Pat Quinn and legislators have been mulling alternative ways of paying for the state parks in recent months. One proposal would give the Illinois Department of Natural Resources the power to impose a special fee on park users.

Opponents said Illinoisans have been hit with too many tax and fee hikes in recent years.

Supporters say the money would replace funds that have been diverted away from parks.

“This bill is something that we need to do to right the wrongs of the last 10 years,” said state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields.

Of the estimated $22 million that would be raised, half would be targeted for park maintenance, with the remainder going to park operations.

State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said having everyone pay would be a better alternative. Charging a park user fee and requiring a special DNR decal would be hard to police and could deter people from visiting parks.

“This could be an economic engine if we would actually fund it adequately,” said state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion.

“This bill is going to save DNR,” said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg.

The last time the state’s license plate fee was raised was in July 2009 when lawmakers approved a $20 increase — to $99 — to help pay for road, bridge and school construction projects.

Secretary of State Jesse White, who will have to administer the fee, opposes the fee hike.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1566.

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