A Tale of Two Taxes in Illinois: Sin Taxes and Gas Taxes

A Paul Simon Public Policy Institute survey last month found that 53 percent of respondents thought expanding gambling would be a good way to raise money and help close the state's $6.2-billion budget gap.

The response shouldn't be surprising. Like compulsive gamblers who return to the blackjack table time after time, confident that a big payoff is just one hand away, Illinois taxpayers have been conditioned to believe that gambling is a convenient and limitless font of tax revenue just waiting to be tapped.

But figures from the General Assembly's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability show that state revenue from the state's 10 casinos has been in steep decline since 2005. That year casinos brought in $699 million to the state. In 2014 the figure was $321 million.

The advent of legal video gambling in 2013, and the near-steady growth in Illinois State Lottery since the early 2000s, helped offset the decline of casino revenue, but state and national experts say the boom years of gambling expansion are long gone.

(Read the rest, plus see gaming revenue, tax and home rule tax charts, at Reboot Illinois.)

Another tax that can be difficult for Illinoisans to talk about is the gas tax. It has been the same since 1990, at 19 cents per gallon.

While you may think that's a great deal for consumers -- can you name another tax that's been the same for the past quarter-century? -- it's a big problem for those in charge of keeping the state's roads and bridges safe for travel.

Twenty years ago the state excise tax on gasoline covered 36 percent of the state's total highway budget. But increased fuel efficiency means drivers aren't buying as much gas as they used to.

(Read more about the problems with a stagnant gas tax at Reboot Illinois.)


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