BIG PINCH: Access Fees To Double at CHICAGO Airports

Posted on June 16, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

Illinois Senate Bill 28 will raise access taxes for operators at Chicago airports to $4 for livery vehicles and $54 for motorcoaches.

CHICAGO — Illinois Senate Bill 28, which includes a 100% tax increase to all for-hire ground transportation trips to and from Chicago airports, was passed by both houses of the Illinois legislature on May 28.

The bill was aimed at cutting costs at McCormick Place and Navy Pier in Chicago to lure back convention business following the loss of trade shows that cited its high labor costs.

On May 26, Gov. Pat Quinn issued an amendatory veto of the bill. Both the House and Senate overrode the veto on May 28.

Jim Miller, immediate past president of the ILLINOIS LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATION and general manager of A-1 Airport Limousine Service in Bloomingdale, Ill., has been working to gather information and spread it to parties of interest in an effort to stop the tax.

Although the bill had been loosely discussed, the swiftness in which it was passed caught Chicago transportation providers off-guard, Miller said.

“We were just struggling to find the information on the bill,” he said, adding that some taxi and bus operators he talked to were unaware of what was going on.

The “occupation tax” to and from O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport will double, raising fees to $4 for taxis or livery vehicles, $18 for vans, $36 for minibuses, and $54 for motorcoaches.

“It is a disaster for us and the clients,” said George Jacobs, president of Windy City Limousine, based in Franklin Park, Ill. His company hadn’t been charging clients the $2 sedan fee, but with this increase, Jacobs said he will have to begin charging the full amount.

“Clients are outraged and will seek other cities which are friendlier to conventioneers,” he said.

A bus operator told Miller he’d have to go back and increase one of his service quotes by $1,000 once the tax is enforced — not the best incentive for luring convention business.

Miller and the ILA hope a trailer bill will repeal the transportation tax, although Miller’s sources say at this point, this isn’t yet included in the trailer bill. A trailer bill is a piece of legislation that “trails” along after approved bills with the intent of solving a political problem. To avoid a veto, legislators use trailer bills as an alternative in which they promise to send the Governor a new bill that corrects concerns about the original legislation. In theory, the Governor can safely sign the first bill knowing that anything undesirable will be removed or changed almost immediately with the trailer bill.

“My feeling is we do have some time,” Miller said. “I’ve been working with some of the taxi associations and bus associations to communicate with state reps and state senators. We all need to work together on this to let them know that this has a negative impact to people coming in. The more people we have involved, the more likelihood that someone will listen.”

Jacobs is considering more drastic measures: “I think we’ll have to sue to stop it.”

Both Miller and Jacobs point out that the bill will most unfairly affect suburban transportation providers, subject to the tax even if they do not service McCormick Place and hence do not benefit from increased conventions.

— Thi Dao, LCT Magazine

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