Pritzker defends forcing gas station owners to put his propaganda on pumps

Pritzker gas

Gov. JB Pritzker | Photo courtesy of Illinois Policy

Gov. J.B. Pritzker defended his mandate that gas stations owners post stickers at the pump announcing his delay of a gas tax increase or pay $500 daily fines.

“There’s no political speech involved there, at all,” Pritzker said April 27. “And, here’s what we’re doing. We’re lowering the impact on people of the rise in prices of gas all across the world, but lowering the impact for the people here in Illinois.”

He said punishing station owners for failing to comply is not forced political speech, but rather an educational tactic used by governors decades ago.

The Illinois Fuel and Retail Association argues otherwise. They are planning a lawsuit that claims Pritzker and the law are violating their First Amendment right to free speech.

“The state of Illinois is seeking to force businesses under the threat of fines and criminal penalties to post political speech,” association President Josh Sharp told the Center Square. Sharp said the lawsuit is being drafted and will be filed soon.

Pritzker’s sticker must use bold lettering, be four by eight inches and 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.”

Failure to post Pritzker’s sign on gas pumps will cost station owners $500 a day. That means a protesting retailer could rack up $65,000 in fines between the start date of July 1 through Election Day on Nov. 8.

Pritzker passed a similar mandate for grocery store owners to advertise the 1% grocery tax suspension in his 2023 state budget. No penalty was included for non-compliance.

When asked why there wasn’t a required sticker when he doubled the gas tax in 2019, Pritzker did not respond.

Illinoisans pay the nation’s second-highest gas taxes since the governor signed a bill increasing the state tax on gas from 19 to 38 cents a gallon his first year in office. Illinoisans now pay about $1 per gallon just in taxes.

The 2019 legislation also created an automatic annual inflationary gas tax increase. Pritzker’s signs tout a six-month delay in the upcoming hike of 2.2 cents a gallon.

But that also means drivers face two automatic increases in 2023: the 2.2-cent increase delayed to Jan. 1 and then the regular automatic increase on July 1, 2023, projected to be 3.8 cents a gallon.

When asked about the lawsuit by the fuel retailers, Pritzker said the same sign tactic had been used by politicians decades before.

“It’s the same sticker that was put on under the Republican governor 20 years ago, when the gas tax was cut,” Pritzker said. “Same exact one.”

Sharp said what happened 20 years ago is irrelevant.

“What happened two decades ago I’m not really sure about and I think there was strong pushback from our members then. We didn’t, to my knowledge, go to court to fight it, but this time we are,” Sharp said. “We just think it is very inappropriate to put this kind of requirement in place when you have state elections taking place in November.”

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