Highway funding drying up as Illinois withholds motor fuel tax payments

Many of you are starting to feel the effects of a budget battle every time you drive home or to work. We have been tracking the effects of a budget impasse in Illinois for weeks, and now we’re taking a closer look at what it means for your family.

You’re taxed 19 cents for every gallon of gas you buy in Illinois.

In 2014, that generated more than $88 million in revenue to fix Illinois roads.

Local county highway departments, which depend on the money, have yet to see a single dollar during fiscal year 2016.

For Williamson County Highway Engineer Greg Smothers, the summer is the busiest time of the year.

"We've got several things going every day,” Smothers said. “It's constant."

While his crews are busy mowing, patching, and paving local roadways, Smothers is busy budgeting for an uncertain future.

"We have not received motor fuel tax allotments for FY16," Smothers said.

The problem, according to Smothers, is that Illinois isn't paying its motor fuel tax, which is assessed every time you are at the pump. 

Though the dollars keep rolling in to the state, they're not coming into the counties where they're needed most.

"More rural areas are really suffering,” Smothers said. “We're a little more fortunate than most, but it's causing serious issues right now with the economy."

That makes planning for a winter snow and spring thaw nearly impossible.

"It's going to affect what we do next year, for sure, on the oil and chip side of things, because we won't have revenue for the last six to eight months," Smothers said.

With no financial help in sight, Union County has already delayed fixing some roads, and Johnson County has laid off three employees.

We reached out to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office to find out if counties would receive back pay on the motor fuel tax once a budget agreement is reached, but we have not heard back.

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