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Local News

Drivers brace for more taxes

County DOT expects to add more projects with new revenue

Drivers in Will County may have noticed they’re paying a bit more at the pump.

The new 4-cent gas tax that the Will County Board passed last year went into effect Saturday, said Jeff Ronaldson, the county’s director of transportation.

Numerous residents reached out to the County Board as it debated the issue last year. They didn’t want to continue paying more taxes, especially after the state government doubled its gas tax from 19 to 38 cents to help pay for the $45 billion capital spending bill.

“It [stinks],” said Donna Lyle, a Shorewood resident who was filling up her car at a gas station in Joliet days before the new tax kicked in. “No increases are good. There’s got to be a different way to get money for the county.”

While the board’s vote was contentious, one Democrat, Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, actually voted with Republicans against the tax. She argued that while she was for raising revenue to better care for the county’s roadways, she wanted to offset costs for homeowners. Such an idea was discussed among board members last year, but nothing concrete came out of those discussions.

“My goal in taxation would be to ensure that Will County homeowners experience a decrease in their property tax and the burden of paying for road maintenance is shifted to those frequent users of the roadways in effect switching the burden from property tax to a user tax,” she said before the vote.

County officials will soon learn more about how the added tax revenue could benefit specific roadway projects.

Ronaldson said he’s planning to present a list of proposals for his department to work on at this month’s Public Works & Transportation Committee meetings.

The new gas tax will generate about $12 million a year in additional revenue for the county to use on roadway projects. That total is in addition to the $6 million a year the county will receive from the state.

Ronaldson said with that revenue, he’d be able to schedule new projects on the county’s five-year transportation plan. He said that without the new gas tax, the county would have been able to schedule these projects, but it would have taken longer.

Ronaldson said his department is looking over what roadway projects could be added to the list based on need and safety concerns. He’s already added new potential projects to his list, including improvements to the Exchange Street and Route 394 intersection in the Crete area.

“We’re still reviewing a lot of information,” Ronaldson said.

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