Station owners say gas tax would hurt consumers

2014-04-14T20:00:00Z 2014-04-14T23:06:35Z Station owners say gas tax would hurt consumersT.J. Fowler Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
April 14, 2014 8:00 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | Illinois gas station owners say an increase in the state’s motor fuel tax would be bad for business and consumers.

Responding to a proposal floated by a coalition of business and labor groups to raise the gas tax for road and bridge construction, gas station owners said at a press conference Monday that the measure is shortsighted.

“Drivers deserve a break, and business owners have suffered enough in recent years,” said Bill Fleischli, executive vice president for the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association and the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores. “This would all make it worse on everyone.”

The plan calls for an additional tax of four cents per gallon on gasoline and seven cents per gallon on diesel fuel. The revenue would be used to fund infrastructure projects throughout the state, just in time for the expiration of the state’s five-year capital construction program.

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition came up with the proposal, and estimates the state could bring in $304 million in additional revenue.

Amy Chronister-Ridley, vice president of retail operations for Chronister Oil and Qik-n-EZ, said the additional cost would be passed onto consumers.

“We retailers live in penny profits and cannot afford to absorb this tax. You will pay this tax. In our current condition, (Illinois) residents cannot afford an additional cost at the gas pump," said Chronister-Ridley, whose company owns stations throughout central Illinois.

The TFIC issued a statement Monday arguing that the tax would be virtually painless.

“The coalition understands paying more at the pump isn't easy,” it reads. “But a modest 4-cents-per-gallon increase will hardly be noticed as prices fluctuate much more regularly.

“Combined with other pieces that ensure our transportation dollars go to transportation needs, we will be able to avoid a huge downfall in our infrastructure conditions and keep Illinois moving ahead.”

Fleischli said he supports infrastructure maintenance, but argued that the state needs to reconsider how it spends tax revenue before it goes looking for more.

He pointed to an Auditor General’s report issued last May, which said the state was routinely diverting money from the road construction fund to cover other expenses.

“We think those questions should be answered before we talk about doubling the tax on fuel and doubling the amount of money in the road fund,” Fleischli said.

The TFIC agrees, and argues that the state could spend millions more on infrastructure if it stopped diverting money from the road fund.

If passed, the proposal would be the first increase in the state’s gas tax since 1990.

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