The Will County Board Public Works & Transportation Committee passed a 4-cent countywide gas tax along party lines at its meeting Thursday.
This means the final decision on the tax will go to the full County Board at its meeting Dec. 19. Four Democrats voted to pass the tax, with three Republicans voting against it.
When the state legislature passed its $45 billion capital program earlier this year, it allowed for Will County to pass a 4- to 8-cent motor fuel tax to pay only for road and bridge projects.
Republicans argued that the Democrats were rushing the vote and said it would be best to wait for a year or so to consider a new gas tax.
“I understand we have a lot of projects coming up,” said Minority Leader Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen. “I just think its premature to put it on right now, because that money will just sit in the pot.”
Committee chairman Joe VanDuyne, D-Wilmington, said the County Board has waited five months since it was authorized to pass the gas tax.
He added that board members and residents have had multiple opportunities to debate the issue at town hall meetings throughout the county over the past few months.
Plus, Democrats said, road projects routinely take multiple years to plan and execute.
VanDuyne said that with the growth of traffic and development throughout the county, the aging road system is in need of repair now.
“I want to be more proactive,” VanDuyne said. “We can’t push this off any longer, especially with the logistics and warehousing that’s going on, especially in my district.”
Fricilone also said that the county is already getting significantly more funding for road projects because of the doubling of the state gas tax and a large bond the state issued for its capital program.
Will County will receive an additional $6 million a year, about a 68% increase from its current state revenue, from the state’s gas tax increase, and about $24 million over the next three years from the bond, said Jeff Ronaldson, the county’s director of transportation.
Still, without a county gas tax, Ronaldson has said he expects long-term funding for road projects to be about $1 billion short of what’s needed.
Like the state gas tax, a county gas tax would be indexed to rise with inflation.
Ronaldson said that if the tax is passed this month, he expects it could go into effect Feb. 1.