House bill would force gas station owners to display de facto Pritzker campaign ad

Pritzker gas

Illinois lawmakers are considering forcing gas stations to post a 4-inch by 8-inch, boldly lettered sign on gas pumps highlighting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s temporary suspension of the upcoming automatic gas tax hike. | Photo courtesy of Illinois Policy

Illinois lawmakers are considering forcing gas stations to post a 4-inch by 8-inch, boldly lettered sign on gas pumps highlighting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s temporary suspension of the upcoming automatic gas tax hike.

Failing to comply would come with $500-a-day fines.

Nope, says Josh Sharp of the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association.

“This industry won’t be forced into offering free election year advertising for the Governor. Ordering businesses to take part in speech that is compelled by the government under the threat of fines and criminal penalties is unwise and unconstitutional,” said Sharp, who threatened a lawsuit unless the language is removed.

The gas pump signs are part of an amendment to House Bill 1497, which contains state lawmakers’ budget proposals and Pritzker’s temporary tax cuts. Pritzker is pushing a six-month delay in the automatic state gas tax increase – a measure passed in 2019 when Pritzker and lawmakers doubled the state gas tax from 19 cents to 38 cents a gallon and included automatic annual increases so lawmakers would no longer be forced to take public votes on the unpopular tax hikes.

Suspending the penny increase has been roundly criticized as an election-year gimmick that offers no real relief.

Amendment 1 of HB 1497 would require gas stations to post signs on pumps that read: “As of July 1, 2022, the State of 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.”

Any gas station that doesn’t comply would be guilty of a “petty offense” and fined $500 per day until the sign is visible on the premises.

Illinoisans pay the second-highest gas taxes in the nation since the gas tax was doubled in 2019. Those taxes were intended to support $45 billion in infrastructure spending, but the projects were riddled with pork including dog parks, pickleball courts and money for political cronies who never sought the funds.

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