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Republican gas tax bills stall while prices soar at the pump

From left to right: State Reps. Tom Demmer, Mark Luft, Patrick Windhorst, and Amy Elik.
Maggie Strahan
From left, state Reps. Tom Demmer, Mark Luft, Patrick Windhorst, and Amy Elik.

House Republicans held a press conference Wednesday to discuss possible solutions to high gas prices facing Illinoisans over the past few weeks.

State Rep. Mark Luft of Pekin spoke to the media alongside Reps. Amy Elik of Alton, Patrick Windhorst of Harrisuburg, and Tom Demmer of Dixon. They focused on stalled Republican bills to provide relief to Illinois drivers.

The bills, all of which remain in the House Rules Committee, include HB 5481 to suspend a gas tax in times of inflation, HB 5723 to limit gas taxes at a certain percentage, and HB 5155, to provide income tax credit for families struggling to pay for necessities.

In addition to his role as representative, Luft is also the mayor of Pekin. He says the price of gas has cut deeply into his city’s budget. While Pekin budgets for fuel for its police cars, school buses, and other city vehicles, the rising price of gas means that money may not last until the end of the fiscal year.

“Every mayor in Illinois is having to look at these numbers and make tough choices. Do we cut services? Do we raise taxes? I don't think that people in my town would be too happy if I told them we were going to make up the difference by cutting back on police patrols or cutting back on fixing our streets,” Luft said.

Luft, along with his colleagues, said that money cannot be taken away from other parts of the budget. He didn’t specify support for any bills but rather called on the supermajority Democratic party and the federal government to provide whatever relief possible.

“We can't afford to ignore the infrastructure or to reappropriate those funds for other issues. The real answer is to find relief through Springfield,” said Luft.

Gov. JB Pritzker included some tax relief in his proposed state budget, but Republicans say they feel that it does not go far enough. The filed bills are past the deadline for movement in the House of Representatives, but lawmakers say bipartisan support could get them moving.

The General Assembly must have its budget finalized by the end of May.

Maggie Strahan is a graduate student in the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois.