FEB 25, 2022
Engineering trade group unveils ‘Prioritize Our Infrastructure’ agenda, urges Pritzker to abandon gas tax break
American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois president CEO joins fellow board members for a news conference on Thursday [Blue Room Stream]
Less than a month after Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed delaying a planned increase to the state’s gas tax, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois held a press conference encouraging legislators to stand by the original Rebuild Illinois infrastructure bill and its planned increase in the gas tax.
Passed by legislators in 2019, Rebuild Illinois was the state’s first new capital program in nearly a decade. The bill provided for more than $45 billion in infrastructure investments across the state through 2026 and relied on revenue from an increase in the motor fuel tax along with automatic increases each year to adjust for inflation.
That tax was scheduled to increase on July 1 with the Governor’s office estimating that prices would have gone up approximately 2 cents per gallon. Currently the state’s gas tax sits at 39.2 cents per gallon for standard gasoline and 46.7 cents per gallon for diesel.
At a Thursday press conference, Kevin Artl, President and CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Illinois, told reporters that his organization supported Rebuild Illinois because it would fund projects that had long been backlogged. According to Artl, those ready-to-move projects would help the state retain young engineering talent for the short term. To keep that talent long term however, the scheduled gas tax increase should remain, he said.
“Stability in funding will lead to stability in the workforce.”
In a press release, Artl added, “As a proposal is floated in Springfield to defer the annual adjustment of the state’s motor fuel tax, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois is calling on legislators to keep their promise to Illinoisans by preserving critical funding for needed improvements and investments in our state’s physical infrastructure.”
During a press tour earlier this month, Deputy Governor Andy Manar told reporters that Illinois residents needed all the help they could get.
“The governor understands that the surge in inflation is taking a bite out of people's pocketbooks. And it's hitting working families hard in Illinois."
Pritzker has insisted the tax holiday will not threaten any planned capital projects.
In their same release on Thursday, ACEC outlined a number of other legislative priorities for the session including SB3742, a bill that would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to begin a student loan repayment assistance program and SB2477, a tax credit aimed at attracting and retaining young engineering professionals. Both bills are currently awaiting assignment to committees.
HB392 will also be a priority for the group. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Martin Moylan (D-Des Plaines), would provide for an “innovation income tax credit” for research that is independent from Federal tax incentives. Moylan’s bill is currently in the House Rules Committee. The proposals have already missed the General Assembly’s deadline to move bills from committees.
Research on the need for engineers overall is mixed. Data seems to demonstrate that Illinois mirrors the rest of the country, with some engineering careers facing a surplus while the government sector and private industry has shortages in specific areas. One reality that research has confirmed is that the engineering industry still has a significant gap in the hiring of women, african americans and latinos.
In a statement to The Daily Line, Tanya Adams, Vice President of WSP USA and Secretary of the ACEC Illinois Board of Directors, prioritized investing and retaining resources already in the state.
“The bills the engineering industry leaders are pushing for will do more than just get students excited — these pieces of legislation will offer incentives for the best and brightest engineering professionals to stay and work in Illinois.”
Steve Donahue, President of Horner & Shifrin, Inc. and Chair of the ACEC Illinois Board of Directors, pointed toward the glut of work coming to the state in the near future.
“With important infrastructure projects on the horizon, Illinois desperately needs more engineers,” In a statement emailed to The Daily Line, Donahue said. The legislation that ACEC Illinois is championing will help get well-educated engineering professionals employed at state agencies and engineering firms across the state and provide them the chance to work on the state’s highest priority projects.”
Also listed among the group's priorities were efforts from Republicans to require a civil engineer to sign an affidavit to certify malpractice prior to a lawsuit against an engineer or firm. HB701 is carried by Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst) with the corresponding SB1815 carried by Sen. Don DeWitte (R-St. Charles).
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