Illinois gas averaged over $3 a gallon April 12, but cross the state line in any direction and a driver could save at least 27 cents a gallon.

Gasoline was more than $1 higher than a year earlier in Illinois, averaging $3.05 compared to $1.89 on April 12, 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 state lockdown, according to AAA.

Gasoline prices are the highest they’ve been since late July 2019, according to Gas Buddy. That was shortly after the state gas tax doubled to 38 cents from 19 cents per gallon as part of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s package of 20 tax and fee hikes.

Illinois’ high gas prices are most obvious when drivers leave the state. Compared to Illinois at $3.05, every other neighboring state was at least 27 cents per gallon cheaper. Missouri gas was 42 cents cheaper.

Gas was even higher in Chicago at $3.37. The same bill that doubled the state gas tax also gave Chicago the authority to raise its gas tax. City leaders did so on Jan. 1, raising the city gas tax to 8 cents a gallon from 5 cents to generate an estimated $10 million a year as one of the moves to close a budget deficit being driven by pension costs, which are expected to rise by at least $1 billion during Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s term.

Counties were also granted higher gas tax authority by the 2019 bill. Lake County imposed a 4-cents-per-gallon fuel tax expected to generate an estimated $8 million to $11 million a year. Will County was the first to add a 4-cent tax under the new law and was followed by DuPage Countydoubling from 4 to 8 cents in November.

The state gas tax hike in 2019 cost the average motorist $100 more a year, according to an Illinois Policy Institute analysis. State lawmakers also built in automatic annual increases of up to 1 cent per gallon each July 1, based on inflation. The rate increased to 38.7 cents per gallon in 2020 and is set to rise again July 1.

While doubling the gas tax and other hikes were sold by the Pritzker administration as “necessary” to repair “crumbling roads and bridges,” an Illinois Policy Institute analysis found at least $1.4 billion of waste and pork spending in the enacted plan. Some of the questionable projects included funding for pickleball courts, swimming pools, and vague grants to be handed out by politicians and well-connected insiders.

Drivers are experiencing pain at the pump that is worse than it needs to be. Illinois could remove the pork and get a better return on future infrastructure spending by establishing a data-driven project selection process similar to the cost benefit analysis required by state law in Virginia.

Otherwise, enjoy the $3.05 pain in the gas, unless of course you live close to the state line.

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