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Opinion-editorial
Illinois has a new tax collector. It’s you.

By John Bendel, editor-at-large

The Illinois Tollway Authority issued a press release on its proposed 2015 budget that includes this illuminating line: “Revenues are projected to increase from $1.02 billion budgeted in 2014 to $1.17 billion in 2015, primarily due to a truck toll rate increase previously approved by the Tollway Board in 2008.”

In other words, the Illinois Tollway Authority is grabbing an additional $150 million from trucks in the coming year. And more hikes are coming through 2017. The trucks-only thing is obviously intended to assuage private motorists who vote in Illinois. They won’t be paying at the toll booth, so they won’t care.

But those Illinois voters shouldn’t kid themselves. They’ll be paying, all right.

Yes, as an owner-operator you may absorb tolls from time to time, but one way or another you eventually pass them on. You have no other option. Maybe you’re reimbursed by a broker or carrier, but those guys don’t eat toll costs. They pass tolls on to shippers who add them to the cost of whatever you’re hauling (in this particular food chain, you’re probably the only link that doesn’t get to mark up the cost before you pass it on).

In any case, a toll increase for trucks ultimately shows up in everything from gasoline to construction materials to the food on the table – anything that moves on an Illinois toll facility.

If the logic used to justify tolls were more generally applied, there would be a toll booth at the end of every city block and you would have to pay the cops for house calls. My point, of course, is that tolls are simply taxes by another name.

So Illinois’s trucks-only toll increase cynically designed to appeal to the general public is very much a tax on them, extracted secretly and silently from the economic bloodstream of the region: trucking.

As an owner-operator, you’re the red blood cell that delivers sustenance to the parasite – the Illinois Tollway Authority.

Congratulations. You’re a tax collector. LL