EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KTVI) — An association of gas station owners is finalizing a lawsuit against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat. The owners accused Pritzker of forcing them to post messages on their gas pumps to boost Pritzker’s reelection campaign.
Like its gas tax, Illinois gas prices are among the nation’s highest. Amid soaring prices, Pritzker called on state lawmakers to freeze the state’s gas tax beyond the November election, through the end of the year.
As part of the freeze, Pritzker’s Democrat supporters in the Illinois General Assembly added a requirement in the budget that gas stations post stickers on gas pumps to alert customers to the tax freeze.
The stickers are required starting July 1. The stickers must state, “Illinois has suspended the inflation adjustment to the motor fuel tax through December 31, 2022. The price on this pump should reflect the suspension of the tax increase.”
“It should be posted on the pumps, so we’ll be more aware of things,” said driver Vic Dantzson of Edwardsville.
“I probably wouldn’t even see it,” said driver Donna Lobdell, also of Edwardsville. “I think it has to do with politics, and I don’t think they should be forced to do it.”
Stations not posting the stickers face $500 fines per dispenser per day. The Illinois Fuel and Retail Association represents about 5,000 stations and is suing to stop the stickers. They are different from all of the other stickers we see on gas pumps.
“This isn’t something about safety at the pumps. It’s not about octane ratings,” noted Josh Sharp, the CEO of the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association. “It’s about a tax. Politicians are free to put out those messages all they want through a press release and paid political advertising, but you cannot force businesses under the threat of criminal action to post your message for you. (Owners) could face fines of thousands of dollars per day or even tens of thousands per day at a big location.”
The governor has been touting the freeze since February.
“This year we are holding the line and offering a reprieve from rising prices for Illinois families. It will bring immediate relief to everyone at the gas pump,” he said at an event in Marion earlier this year.
There was no mention of stickers and fines then.
Pritzker has since said the stickers were an educational tool first used by Republican Gov. George Ryan in 2000. That was not done during the heart of a gubernatorial election campaign, Sharp said.
He noted that there was no sticker requirement when Governor Pritzker raised the state gas tax from 19-cents-a-gallon to 38-cents-a-gallon in 2019 or for the smaller gas tax hikes that followed in 2020 and 2021.
“I think it’s a ‘Hail Mary’ effort to run away from his record on gas taxes being the second highest in the country,” Sharp said.
Illinois will face two gas tax hikes within eight months after the election, he said, raising the state’s total tax to more than 45-cents-a-gallon.