Illinois Taps Trash For Extra Cash

IN AN ATTEMPT TO reduce the state's $5 billion deficit, the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Rod R. Blagojevich have increased landfill and licensing fees and removed tax exemption on landfill equipment. Haulers already are incurring cost increases and passing them onto their customers through higher garbage bills.

The state tipping fee has increased from $1.07 per ton to $2.22 per ton. According to Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Public Information Officer, Dennis McMurray, the state received approximately $13.5 million per year in tipping fees prior to the legislation. Legislators expect this change alone to bring in an additional $15 million, creating more than $28 million dollars in tipping fees for the state.

Along with the tipping fee, the new legislation raises truck license fees 36 percent from $2,800 per vehicle to $3,808 per vehicle. Additionally, the tax exemption on landfill equipment has been lifted, resulting in taxes ranging from 5 percent to 8.75 percent on capital expenditures.

Lastly, the new legislation will adjust fees for landfill operating permits. For example, according to the Illinois chapter of the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), Washington, D.C., non-title V operating permit fees will increase from a range of $100 to $1,000 to a range of $200 to $1,800. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) fees, which address water pollution, now will range from $50 to $50,000. Fees for special waste manifests, which track the origins and destinations of industrial waste loads, will increase from $1 to $3.

Although many states are facing serious budget deficits, NSWMA members say that Illinois' budget-balancing efforts are dramatic, and they do not expect other states to follow the state's lead. “We have not seen such punitive action in any other state,” says Peggy Macenas, Midwest manager of NSWMA.

However, McMurray notes “the fees had not been raised in several years.” He says the state EPA so far has received few complaints about the new fees, but the main complaint regards a lack of forewarning, especially concerning long-term contracts in which rates already had been assigned.

The legislation has been criticized by business and municipal organizations, especially considering the fees add to other struggles in the solid waste industry, including environmental insurance premium increases and increased labor costs as a result of contract negotiations.

Tom Agema of Homewood Disposal, East Hazel Crest, Ill., and Illinois chapter chairman of NSWMA, says that the key is to make customers understand that this is similar to a “pass-through tax,” that will be going through haulers and onto the government. “We are creating a separate line item [on invoices] showing the state fees,” Agema says. Changes already have been made to pre-billed accounts, and considering the few phone calls Homewood has received so far, Agema is hoping that customers recognize haulers merely have compliant role in the situation.

As an example of how the fee increases will translate into costs for customers, Homewood is raising monthly residential rates by 20 cents, and commercial and roll-off accounts by 3½ percent.

Many haulers say they are anxious to see whether fee increases will solve state budgetary problems. For details on the environmental fee changes, visit the Illinois EPA Web site: http://www.epa.state.il.us/fees/index.html.

NEW ILLINOLS WASTE FEES

State tipping fee has increased from $1.07 per ton to $2.22 per ton. Illinois government expects to bring in an additional $15 million per year.

The new legislation raises truck license fees 36 percent from $2,800 per vehicle to $3,808 per vehicle.

The tax exemption on landfill equipment has been lifted, with resulting taxes ranging from 5 percent to 8.75 percent on capital expenditures.

Non-title V operating permit fees will increase from a range of $100 to $1,000 to a range of $200 to $1,800.