Illinois asks to keep higher fees while court mulls construction bill

January 28, 2011

The state of Illinois wants to keep collecting higher taxes and fees while it waits for the Illinois Supreme Court to decide the fate of a massive capital bill.

The increased fees and taxes affect everything from candy bars to liquor to vehicle registration. They became law in 2009 as part of a $31 billion state construction plan for roads, bridges and schools.

But an appeals court on Wednesday ruled the plan violates a part of the state constitution that prohibits a single bill from dealing with more than one subject. The appeals court wrote that some provisions of the capital spending plan - including the higher taxes and fees - had no "natural and logical connection" to the projects they were supposed to fund.

The Illinois Attorney General on Thursday filed a stay with the supreme court, asking it to permit the state to continue collecting the higher taxes and fees pending an appeal. The state will make its official appeal to the court by Feb. 14, according to the filing.

To cancel the fees in the interim, with the possiblility that they may be upheld later, "would wreak havoc on critical state operations and finances," the filing reads. "Not only would the various capital projects authorized by [the capital bill] be subject to immediate cessation, with all the disruption and inefficiency that would cause,but the revenue-creating provisions ... would be subject to sudden suspension, risking an irretrievable loss of tens of millions of dollars in state revenues."

A spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn's office said the state has already raked in $425 million in higher fees. She wouldn't speculate what might happen to that money if the state's highest court ultimately strikes down the capital plan.