Lawmakers consider taxing drivers per mile instead of per gallon

New efficient cars and trucks are creating an issue when it comes to collecting the Illinois gas tax. So, instead of paying per gallon, you may soon be paying per mile. 

The gasoline tax is a key source of cash for transportation. Illinoisans are driving more miles than ever before, meaning more wear & tear on roads. But fuel tax collections have dropped five straight years.

Thousands of Illinoisans have put down deposits on Tesla's Model 3, a car expected to hit the highway next year. All-electric Teslas famously never need gasoline. What’s less understood is that means their owners never pay a penny into Illinois' main road repair fund, no matter how many miles they drive.

Some think it would be fairer to tax drivers by the mile.

“I like that idea. Yeah. I think that it works,” John said.

“I understand it. Something has to give. Something has to change,” Crystal Brown said.

At the State Capitol Wednesday evening, a public hearing on a proposed motorist mileage tax heard testimony from experts who explained how it might work.

“It just so happens that we charge you 19 cents per gallon and we're now talking about charging you 1.5 cents per mile,” said Mark Poulos of Foundation for Fair Contracting.

Motorists may be offered three options for tracking their miles: A transponder that would use GPS satellite technology; a transmitter that would send a daily mileage report every 24 hours; or a flat-fee option of about $450 a year - what the average driver now pays in state gasoline fuel tax.

Anti-tax advocates at the Illinois Policy Institute fear a bureaucratic boondoggle.

“Just consider that there are 10.4 million cars registered in the State of Illinois. And then think about the fact that, if we want to track the comings and goings of all of these vehicles, there's going to have to be a huge bureaucracy enacted. And I don't think that's a great plan for drivers,” said Hilary Gowins.

Under this plan, motorists would still pay state gasoline tax at the pump. But we'd get it back as a credit on our state income tax return.