3/20/2006 2:31:00 PM Guest Column Renewable-fuels bill on the move
By Rep. ROGER EDDY For The Daily News
Last week saw very little action on the House floor. Most of the action came as House committees considered Senate bills that had been passed over during the first half of the springsession. Next week, it is likely that we will begin to see some significant movement of bills to the House floor.
One of the pieces of legislation deals with promoting renewable and alternative fuels. I am a co-sponsor of SB 2236. This measure includes several of the components of House Bills that passed last spring to the Senate for which I was the lead sponsor. I strongly believe that we must do everything that we can to promote ethanol and biodiesel. The advantages to Illinois agriculture are very easy to see. Plus, we must reduce our reliance on Middle Eastern oil.
SB 2236 will establish a standard that 10 percent of all motor fuel consumed in Illinois shall be pure ethanol by 2008. This provides the fuel industry flexibility to blend fuel as either 10 percent ethanol motor fuel or E-85 motor fuel. The minimum percentage standard ramps up to 15 percent by 2012.
The legislation also changes the current state sales-tax incentive on ethanol from its current rate of 80 percent of the state sales tax to a rate of 90 percent of the state sales tax starting July 1. This rate will stay in effect until Dec. 31, 2015. The resulting revenue increase would be used to fund the expansion of the renewable fuels industry in Illinois.
To continue the encouragement of renewable fuel markets, SB2236 would provide $25 million for programs that would encourage additional renewable fuel production plants in Illinois. It also provides grant programs for retailers to install E-85 pumping locations throughout Illinois. In addition, funds are available for marketing, research and to help the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency process ethanol facility air permit requests.
There is some opposition to the measure from groups like the Illinois Petroleum Council, the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association, Casey's General stores and a few other business interests. They argue that the measure will cause the price of fuel at the pump to increase. This is an interesting argument from an industry that has seen record profits from record fuel price increases that we have seen during the last year. They also argue that cars using ethanol might see a reduction in miles per gallon performance.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 52-3. Obviously, as a co-sponsor, I intend to push for prompt and favorable consideration of this bill. I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents who are sick and tired of reading about record profits for oil companies and the high price of motor fuel. In fact, many are calling for some type of windfall profit tax on oil companies.
Another bill that we are likely to see in the next couple of weeks is HB 2316. This bill is a fund transfer bill. It uses the governor's administrative chargeback authority (a fancy name for fund-raid authority), to sweep about $250 million into the general revenue fund. Constitutional questions have been raised as to whether or not the governor has the authority to perform these open-ended transfers of dedicated funds. This bill comes on the heels of two consecutive budgets that have been funded using this process.
The Illinois Constitution clearly says that state taxes have to be uniformly imposed upon taxpayers by due process of law. The governor is carrying out the process of levying what he calls "user fees" upon specific, limited (not uniform) groups of people, and then implementing fund transfers (raids, sweeps) to move user-fee proceeds to general revenues. This is part of an overall process of taxation, by which money is being raised from unwilling specific, limited payers by coercive processes to pay for programs related to the general good of Illinois. There are serious questions as to whether these fees, transfers and taxation are constitutional.
You might want to know some of the "dedicated funds" that this legislation would raid: $374,800 from the Illinois Veterans' Rehabilitation Fund, $26,800 from the Military Affairs Trust Fund, $2,169,658 from the University of Illinois Hospital Services Fund, $1,017,400 from the Nurse Dedicated and Professional Fund, $263,700 from the Mental Health Fund, $1,694,630 from the State Parks Fund. The list goes on and on. I will vote against the legislation if it is called for a vote. The people of Illinois pay fees to dedicated funds believing that the money is being used for the purpose intended when paying the fee.
Please let me know if you have opinions regarding these two billsor any other legislation that we will be voting on. You can track legislation at www.ilga.gov. If you have any comments, please write me at either P.O. Box 125, Hutsonville, IL 62433 or 222-N, Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL 62706, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will also keep you updated on my Web site: www.peopleforeddy.com.
Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville) represents the 109th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.