Illinois bill would double base plate fee

| 2/12/2009

Truckers would have to pay twice as much to base plate their trucks in Illinois under legislation in the state’s House.

Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, is the sponsor of a bill that would have commercial vehicles pay double the flat weight tax rates to be paid each registration year. For truck registrations of 80,000 pounds, the fee for tags would increase to $5,580 – up from $2,790.

To add insult to injury, truckers also would pay more for the commercial distribution fee because it is a percentage tax paid on registrations for trucks in the state. The amount is a 14.35 percent surcharge of the registration fees.

Ford said the state needs to look at ways to fund the capital construction bill, and this is one option. He noted that truck fees might be a better option than imposing a tax on business.

“We could raise the fees, which in turn they could write it off as expenses. That’s the reason why the idea came forward,” Ford told Land Line. He also acknowledged that “no one likes to pay more.”

Owner-operator and OOIDA member Dan Reed of Assumption, IL, was taken aback by news of the House bill that seeks to gouge deep into his pocketbook.

Count Reed among the truckers who pay $2,790 for their base plates each year and chip in another $400 to cover the commercial distribution fee that was added a few years ago. Add it all up and he pays nearly $3,200 a year to tag his truck.

If Ford’s bill becomes law, the fee for Illinois truckers like Reed would double to about $6,400.

Like so many other truckers in his position, Reed said the financial hit would be devastating. “I would have to come up with twice as much money,” he told Land Line.

The problem, however, is it’s never that easy to double your income.

“The profit margin is pretty slim right now, for everybody. And in order to come up with twice as much money for plates, you have to have twice as much money coming in. If I double what I charge, they aren’t going to just say yes,” Reed said.

What is especially difficult for Illinois truckers to understand is why state lawmakers seemingly tend to view them as “cash cows.”

If Ford’s plan gains passage in the statehouse, Reed said he would be left with few options. “It’s probably going to shove me out because I’ll probably either have to go to the bank or go to someone who can provide me a base plate.”

Rep. Ford said he is willing to work with truckers to come up with a viable solution.

“I will do my best to make sure we do what’s right for Illinois truckers. If this is not the best way, then it will not happen,” he said. “If this is proven to be more harmful to the industry than helpful, then this will be off the table in a heartbeat.”

The bill – HB448 – is in the House Transportation Regulation, Roads and Bridges Committee. It is scheduled to come up for consideration Wednesday, Feb. 18.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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