Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
As a young legislative staffer in Springfield, the end of session meant late nights and even later night celebrations. The run up to the end of session isn’t for everyone you either love the pressure or you hate it-there’s no in-between. My six years were during the infamous Blagojevich Administration.
This past spring was unusual in the sense that there didn’t seem to be the usual urgency to finish session before the May 31 deadline. Many factors could’ve contributed to the seemingly lack of motivation, including: 50 new legislators who have never pushed their bills through the legislative process or have experienced the drama of the end of session, the political makeup of the new legislators compared to existing legislators, a novice Governor, or a more freewheeling legislative process demanded by the new legislators.
An outcome of the 2019 legislative session was “Rebuild Illinois,” a $5 billion capital improvement plan. Yes, billion with a “B.” The plan which is expected to fund bridge, roadway, and railway projects, as well as the refurbishment of government buildings will be funded through significant fee and tax increase, including:
- $0.19/ gallon gas tax increase
- $0.24/ gallon diesel fuel tax
- $100 annual increase in truck and trailer registrations
- $50 annual increase in car and B-plate pickup truck registrations
- $60 increase in duplicate and replacement titles
- $30 increase in drivers’ license fees
It’s important to mention that the gas tax hike will continue in perpetuity and is indexed to inflation. Oh, and the tax will be effective in time for the summer driving season.
Under the plan, municipalities including the City of Chicago, may add an additional per gallon tax on the sale of motor fuel. On the spending side, Representatives are allotted about three million dollars and Senators are allotted about six million dollars for “member initiatives” aka pork to address pet projects in their district.
On the bright side, the motor fuel tax exemption for off-road diesel was maintained and implements of husbandry remain exempt from titling, registration, and license requirements.
For “vertical” projects like the construction of state buildings, schools, and non-road projects legislators approved numerous revenue increases including:
- 6 new land-based casinos for Chicago, Waukegan, the south suburbs, Walker’s Bluff in Williamson County, Rockford, and Danville
- Expansion in the number of slot machines allowed per location
- 3 percent increase in video gaming taxes
- Authorization of sports betting
- 6 and 9 percent parking garage tax on hourly, daily, or weekly and monthly or annual revenues
- $1 per pack increase on cigarettes
The legislation provides for the Chicago casino to be privately owned and for the City to receive a third of the tax revenue. Although I’ve never traveled to Las Vegas, I’m told that the Chicago casino would have 4,000 gaming seats compared to the Bellagio, which boosts 3,700 gaming seats. The expansion would effectively make Chicago the gambling center of the Midwest.
This spring’s legislative session also resulted in the legalization of the use of recreational marijuana. Beginning next year, Illinois residents over the age of 21 will be able to legally possess nearly one ounce of marijuana while non-residents would be limited to nearly a half-ounce. Current cultivation and distribution centers licensed under the medical cannabis program would be able to receive early approval licenses to begin serving the recreational use market after paying additional licensing fees and meeting additional requirements. Up to 30 cultivation centers could be licensed along with up to 100 additional new licenses for craft growers with an initial capacity up to 5,000 square feet of growing space.
It will be interesting to see if all projects will generate the funds promised.