By Tim McNicholas

CHICAGO (CBS) — While Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, boaters in Illinois have extra reason to celebrate.

A whopping 555% increase in license plate fees for boat trailers could soon be nearly reversed thanks to a bill that just passed the Illinois General Assembly.

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As CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reported Monday, boaters there said they’re finally optimistic about a potential fix.

It all started when a 2019 infrastructure bill spiked the renewal fees. Now a fix is finally moving in Springfield.

Starting last year, boaters went from paying $18 dollars per year to $118.

All in license plate fees. Not for their boats, but for the small trailers they use to haul them.

“Paying that much is nuts.”

Frank Wagner said he only uses his trailer on Memorial Day and a few other days a year.

“Which is just crazy for something like a boat that only hits the road for maybe 50 miles a year,” Wagner said.

Since early 2020, lawmakers said a fix was on the way, but lawmakers said COVID and other obstacles left those plans dead in the water.

Now the Illinois House and Illinois Senate have finally passed a bill that would bring the fees down to $36 dollars, sponsored by Representative Marcus Evans (33rd) of Chicago.

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“We got to pay the bills in the state of Illinois so folks are looking for revenue. So I think this is something where people said it won’t be so bad,” Evans said. “But I don’t think there was a lot of analysis at that time.”

CBS 2 has been flooded with complaints from boaters and lawmakers have heard from some of those same frustrated taxpayers.

The small trailers are also used to haul ATVs and lawnmowers.

Evans said he’s confident the bill will be signed by the governor.

“Sometimes you make mistakes, but as a government you must fix them and address them,” Evans said.

The bill does not include refunds for people like Wagner, whose already lost more than $200 to the increase.

“Please just sign it. Get this fixed,” Wagner said. “I don’t know if it was a mistake or what but I mean that’s just insane.”

Although both the Illinois House and Illinois Senate have approved the legislation to fix the trailer fees, the bill has not yet been sent to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk. Once it is, Evans is optimistic that the new fee could go into effect sometime this summer.

For now, he advises everyone to continue paying the high fee.

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Tim McNicholas