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Consumers, DeKalb County officials talk gas prices, potential state tax increases

January 9, 2019

SYCAMORE – Ellen Crosby of Maple Park was filling up her Chevrolet Silverado with her dog, Finn, in tow at the Hy-Vee gas station when she was talking about gas prices in the state.

She said she works in Arlington Heights and puts a lot of miles on the truck that she got in May, so she tries to save money on gas wherever she can – this time, it’s getting 68 cents a gallon off the current $2.09 as a Hy-Vee fuel saver, she said.

Crosby said she has lived in her home for nearly 30 years and has plans to leave the state after she retires. She said she will not be able to retire in Illinois with the way taxes are right now, and a proposed increase in the state’s motor fuel tax would be the last straw for her.

“It’s going to hasten my departure from this state,” Crosby said.

Crosby’s concerns surface as Illinois lawmakers are considering a potential motor fuel tax increase ahead of Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker’s Jan. 14 inauguration Monday. Elected officials from larger Illinois cities have said they want to see a 20-cent to 30-cent increase in the state’s motor fuel tax.

The current state flat gas tax rate in Illinois is 19 cents a gallon of unleaded, which hasn’t changed since the early 1990s. Other gas taxes include a flat 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal tax rate and the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax rate.

Gas prices within the U.S. – which averaged at $2.232 a gallon as of Tuesday, according to the American Automobile Association – have been at their lowest in the past two years, said Patrick DeHaan, petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. He said 44 percent of the country’s stations have prices less than $2 a gallon and about 70 percent are less than $2.25 a gallon.

DeHaan said oil prices, which are between $42 and $48 a barrel, also have dramatically decreased since October, when the price was $76 a barrel. He said there’s been a large decrease in national average gas prices within the past few months.

“It’s pretty close to an 80-cent decline since October,” DeHaan said.

While federal, state and even municipal taxes affect gas prices, DeHaan said the bulk of the cost comes from competition among nearby gas stations. He said other factors include the looming trade war with China and the Federal Reserve raising interest rates.

“So all three of those issues kind of conspire together,” DeHaan said.

The average price of gas in Illinois was $2.112 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas as of Tuesday, according to AAA.

The average price in DeKalb County is $2.093 a gallon, according to AAA. In Will and Kendall counties, the average gas price is $2.078 and $2.026, respectively.

The average prices in DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties were $2.100, $2.103 and $2.109 a gallon on Tuesday, respectively. All three counties also have a 4-cent county motor fuel tax because they are the only ones that received special authorization to do so from the state, said Nathan Schwartz, county engineer for the DeKalb County Highway Department.

Cook County has a 6-cent county gas tax because they are home rule, Schwartz said. Their gas price average as of Tuesday is $2.318 a gallon of regular unleaded.

As of Tuesday, the average gas prices in Lee and LaSalle counties are $2.052 and $1.962, respectively.

Schwartz said a county fuel tax similar to ones in Kane, DuPage and McHenry counties could generate about $1.8 million a year for DeKalb County and the money would stay within the county.

“That would greatly benefit our county highway system,” Schwartz said. “With the way the economy is right now, I’m not holding my breath.”

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