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Local News

Gas tax, marijuana among issues Will County Board may need to address

Members of the Will County Board Executive Committee meet on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.
Members of the Will County Board Executive Committee meet on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.

With a busy state legislative session in the rearview mirror, local governments such as the Will County Board likely will have to address issues such as marijuana regulations and whether to implement a 4- to 8-cent countywide gas tax.

The county’s lobbyists spoke to board members Thursday about the capital bill and its local effect. They also briefly discussed what the new laws allow the board to do in terms of the possible additional gas tax and marijuana.

In regard to marijuana, the General Assembly authorized counties and local governments to regulate all cannabis operations in compliance with the law, including, but not limited to, the hours of operation, number of dispensaries within their jurisdiction, space between cannabis-related businesses and the size of various operations. The Legislature also allowed counties and other municipalities to impose their own related taxes.

Will County Board Speaker Denise Winfrey, D-Joliet, said although board members have not yet discussed possible actions on marijuana regulations, they likely will have to consider issues such as how to handle growers wanting to spread their business to the county and whether to allow people to use the drug in public spaces.

“There are a lot of pieces that once you say you’re going to do it, you really have to look in the details,” she said.

Winfrey said although there is no set timetable for making such decisions at the county level, she thinks it might be helpful to establish something such as a task force to study the local effect of legalized recreational marijuana.

The capital bill also allows the county to institute its own countywide gas tax, which could raise a significant amount of additional revenue for local road and waterway construction projects. Winfrey said she’d be in favor of a 4-cent countywide gas tax to generate the revenue to go toward projects, which she said already have been delayed. She said such funding will be needed as the county’s population and truck traffic on local roads continues to increase.

Still, some Republican members already have advised caution in regard to adding another tax on residents. Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, said the state has already “overburdened” residents with actions such as the 19-cent increase of the state gas tax, which she called regressive. Ogalla argued the additional funding Will County should get from the state gas tax, which amounts to an estimated 68% increase in annual gas tax revenue, already is a “significant amount” more money.

“I think it would be very rude of us to consider asking our residents to pay more,” Ogalla said.

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