(August 5) The late Senator Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., was referring to the Defense Department budget in an interview when he spoke the now immortal line, "a billion dollars here, a billion dollars there and before you know it you are talking real money."
Today, Illinois long-haul truckers might be saying virtually the same thing about the cost of doing business in their state.
Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich announced in June that his recently approved budget resolved the worst fiscal crisis in Illinois history.
The Democrat Blagojevich claimed he'd accomplished the task without raising the consumer taxes or expanding gambling, while providing $1 billion in new funding for education, health care and public safety.
Illinois long-haul truckers counter that increasing their license fees from $1,000 to more than $3,600 and decreasing the number of haulers exempt from sales tax on repair bills is nothing more than a game of smoke and mirrors.
Illinois Department of Revenue projections show the increased license fees and repair costs will add $92 million a year to the state's general fund. The increase, as much as 36%, adds $1,000 a year to some operators and makes the cost of licensing an over-the-road truck the third highest such fees in the nation.
“It’s a total disincentive for a trucking operation to remain in Illinois,” said Donald Schaefer, executive vice president of the Springfield, Ill.-based Mid-West Truckers Association. “If you're a large fleet with multiple terminals," Schaefer said, "where do you want to domicile your fleet? I don't think it will be Illinois."
Schaefer said neighboring Indiana was already advertising itself as a “truck friendly” environment. "Motor fuel taxes are lower, licensing fees are lower, and highway rules allow movement at higher speeds."
Schaefer is referring to Blagojevich's veto of a measure passed this July by the state legislature that would increase allowable truck speed to 65 miles per hour on the state's highways instead of the current 55 mph.
"The governor is more concerned about public opinion than safety," said Schaefer, and predicted that supporters of the bill would more than likely attempt to override the veto when lawmakers return to session Nov. 4.