News Local/State

Gas Tax, 911 Surcharge Among Legislative Ideas Backed By Local Officials


Local elected officials in Champaign County are offering state legislators some ideas on how to solve Illinois’ budget crisis.  Among the ideas - giving local governments more leeway when it comes to setting fees to pay for 9-1-1 emergency service, and increasing the state motor fuel tax to pay for road work, just as local governments have done.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing was among those who met last week with three area lawmakers, along with Champaign County Board members, and city council members from Urbana, Champaign, Savoy, Rantoul and Mahomet.

Prussing says some current measures need to be updated.  Both Urbana and Champaign raised their local motor fuel taxes in recent years to pay for road work.  But the mayor says the state motor fuel tax should be increased as well, according to the rate of inflation.

“It was enough to maintain roads and build roads, but now it isn’t, because they haven’t changed it for over 20 years," she said.  "And inflation has gone on the meantime, and the cost of repairing roads and building roads has gone up many times, whereas the funding mechanism hasn’t.”

On the issue of funding 9-1-1, the state currently adds an 87-cent monthly surcharge on downstate phone bills to pay for the service --- the rate is much higher in Chicago.

Prussing says the 87-cent fee is not enough to cover the cost of the service, and local governments have had to pay the rest. The mayor notes that Champaign County voters approved a $1.50 monthly fee more than 20 years ago, although that was for landline phones only.

“We don’t have the money to run the system without charging the cities more and more, and we’re under a very tight budget, so it seems that we should at least be allowed to charge what our voters approved," she said.  "And I also think what’s needed probably varies around the state."

The city of Urbana has struggled to pay for local 9-1-1 service, and recently worked out a payment plan with METCAD, the agency which provides 9-1-1 service in Champaign County.

Prussing led a discussion on those ideas at Monday night's Urbana City Council Committee of the Whole meeting. Champaign City Council members will review some of the same ideas at their study session Tuesday night.