The Boone County Board has voted to ask the Illinois General Assembly for permission to impose a gasoline tax of up to four cents per gallon, only for transportation purposes.

State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, introduced House Bill 4368 in December 2015, but it never got out of committee during the 2016 legislative session.

“Like any bill that makes common sense, it landed on Mr. [House Speaker Michael] Madigan’s desk and stayed there,” Board Chairman Karl Johnson said.

“That could happen again,” board member Cathy Ward said.

Johnson replied that it all depends on whether a new bill gets out of committee.

“It’s important to note that this [authority] already exists for some counties,” Johnson said.

Specifically, those are McHenry, Kane, and DuPage Counties.

This year, Pritchard suggested that perhaps the county’s other state House member, Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, might be interested in sponsoring a similar bill.

“I’m very concerned with the rising cost of living and stagnant wages affecting working families, and this tax is a further financial burden,” Rep. Sosnowski wrote in a statement dated Monday, Jan. 30. “I encourage local governments to look for alternative means.”

The county board voted unanimously Jan. 18 to ask that such a bill be reintroduced during the current legislative session, which will run through May 31.

If approved, Boone and DeKalb Counties would be added to the list having that authority.

Board member Brad Stark, who chairs the roads and capital improvements committee, said during the January committee meeting, it was suggested that Winnebago County be involved in this effort, “so it would include some Democratic legislators.”

Winnebago State Sen. Steve Stadelman, of Rockford, is a Democrat as is State Rep. Litesha Wallace, also of Rockford. The remaining five legislators are Republicans including two who also represent Boone County: Sen. Dave Syverson and Rep. Sosnowski.

County Administrator Ken Terrinoni said no legislators had been pursued at that point.

“It’s kind of a chicken and egg issue as to how to move on,” he said.

He added that it would be best if the issue had county board support, before legislative contact is made.

Board member Jessica Muellner said she thought the bill’s failure last year was more of a time issue, rather than one of legislative support.

“There were two issues: the clock and lack of traction with other legislators,” Terrinoni said.

There wasn’t enough time and “it was an election year,” he said.

The hb 4368 bill was re-referred to the rules committee in April 2016, about seven weeks before the legislature adjourned.

The same bill was reintroduced Tuesday, Jan. 10, during the lame duck session, but adjournment of the 99th General Assembly occurred before it could go anywhere. The 100th General Assembly was sworn in Wednesday, Jan. 11.

One point of emphasis and a bit of levity accompanied the end of the discussion during the Wednesday, Jan. 18 county board meeting.

Newly seated board member Marshall Newhouse stressed the tax, if approved, would be up to four cents per gallon, not an automatic four cents and imposing the tax would be a board decision.

Another new board member, Dr. Bernard O’Malley, asked if the state would collect the tax and then give it to the county at a later date.

Some chuckling accompanied that question given the state’s current position of being more than $3.5 billion behind in paying its bills.

“I’m sure there will be a 90-day delay, the same as there is with anything else,” Board Chairman Johnson said.

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