JOLIET – Area lawmakers are calling for the release of motor fuel tax dollars to local governments so municipalities have help paying for road salt, snowplow and pothole repairs, and other road projects and maintenance jobs.
Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, and Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield, on Wednesday called for the immediate release on the state’s local share of the motor fuel tax.
“Joliet-area motorists pay thousands of dollars in state gas taxes, but Springfield is holding on to the money,” Bertino-Tarrant said in a news release issued Wednesday. “This whole ordeal has been frustrating. … The money belongs to the community.”
McGuire told The Herald-News he’s particularly concerned about the city of Joliet, which heavily relies on motor fuel tax dollars for public works projects. The state’s withholding of gambling tax revenue, coupled with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to reduce the local share of state income taxes, spells trouble for the city.
“The sooner we can get this gaming revenue and [motor fuel tax revenue] shipped out from Springfield, the better,” McGuire said.
The funds can’t be sent out without state authorization. In early September, Bertino-Tarrant and McGuire joined Democrats in the Senate to approve a plan authorizing the release of those funds. But the legislation – Senate Bill 2046 – remains in the House.
Joliet Public Works Director Jim Trizna said the city uses MFT funds for road resurfacing and construction, bridge work and other projects. Snowplow operations are paid for through the city’s operating budget.
“Momentarily we’re OK, but come next spring, a lot of these upcoming projects could be on hold. We may not even have the funds to hire the engineering consultants,” he said.
Trizna said future projects reliant on federal dollars could be in jeopardy, too. Having ample MFT funds sends a clear message to the federal government when cities compete for grant dollars: “We’ve got your share. You’ve got your local match,” Trizna said.
Joliet is waiting on about $1.8 million in MFT dollars, while Will County is waiting on about $4 million.
Will County and local governments received more than $21.9 million in gas tax money last year, including $8 million to county government, $3.6 million to Joliet, $1.8 million to Bolingbrook, $1 million to Romeoville, $979,900 to Plainfield and $600,000 to Lockport.