Illinois motorists may soon be the victims of their own good behavior. Drivers in the Land of Lincoln have been improving their fuel efficiency and driving more hybrid and electric cars that lessen their reliance on gasoline. As a result, the state revenue from gasoline tax is falling.

With more than $2 billion in summer construction projects planned, state legislators are scrambling to find a way to pay for the road repairs. One prominent state senator proposes scrapping a tax on gas for state residents and replacing it by taxing drivers based on the distance they drive.

Residents would pay 1.5 cents per mile driven under a proposal made by State Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago). Mileage would be tracked and monitored by a transponder-like device installed in vehicles. Motorists who believe such a tracking device raises all sort of privacy concerns would have an alternate option of paying a flat $450 tax per year, or the equivalent of 30,000 miles driven.

Make no mistake, the law would punish owners of green-friendly vehicles. "The Prius owners are the reason we need the bill," Cullerton told The Daily Herald. Further, gas-guzzling vehicles would probably pay less in taxes overall because the 1.5-cent-per-mile tax would be cheaper than the current taxes they pay at the pump.

"The Prius owners are the reason we need the bill." – John Cullerton


It's a significantly different approach than the one lawmakers are using to solve transportation-related shortfalls at the federal level, where President Obama has proposed a $10 per barrel tax on gasoline that would raise money for infrastructure repairs and, ostensibly, incentivize drivers to purchase more more hybrid and electric vehicles.

The Illinois "Road Improvement and Driver Enhancement Act" would not go into effect until 2025, so drivers would have considerable time to prepare for the law. An executive committee within the Illinois state senate is expected to debate the merits of the measure this afternoon.

Illinois isn't the first state to float such a plan. Oregon actually implemented the first pay-by-mile program in the United States last year.

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