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Group representing gas stations will sue Illinois over gas tax sticker requirement

The Illinois Fuel & Retail Association plans to sue the state of Illinois over a requirement...
The Illinois Fuel & Retail Association plans to sue the state of Illinois over a requirement that gas stations promote a six-month suspension of the gas tax.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 6:36 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - You may be paying a little less at Illinois gas pumps starting July 1, but gas stations will face fines if they don’t display a sign explaining why the gas is cheaper. A provision in the state budget states retailers will be found guilty of a petty offense if they don’t have the 4-inch by 8-inch sticker posted to explain the six-month suspension of the gas tax.

Some have characterized this as a campaign message to help Illinois Democrats in November. However, the organization representing gas stations says they’re going to fight it in court.

The Fiscal Year 2023 budget is signed, but it doesn’t take effect until July 1. That means there is still plenty of time for the Illinois Fuel & Retail Association to fight the state over the gas tax sticker requirement.

All gas stations will be required to put the advertisement on each gas pump noting lawmakers suspended the inflation adjustment, and the price drivers pay should reflect it.

“You can’t force businesses in Illinois, or in any state, to participate in speech they disagree with or that they don’t want to participate in,” said Josh Sharp, CEO of the Illinois Fuel & Retail Association.

The law states gas stations must have the signs clearly visible to customers and any retailers who fail to put the sticker up from July 1 to December 31 will be found guilty of a petty offense. They could also be charged $500 each day the stickers aren’t posted.

“We feel that mandate that puts criminal penalties on our members, puts financial penalties on our members, is unconstitutional,” Sharp said.

Language from Senate Bill 157 that explains the new requirement for Illinois gas stations.
Language from Senate Bill 157 that explains the new requirement for Illinois gas stations.(Mike Miletich)

Sharp argues Democrats had no right to put this into the budget package and it should have never been signed off by Gov. JB Pritzker.

“This whole ploy to force our members into posting these signs just shows you how scared some in Springfield are and some of those that are running statewide in November are for perhaps being blamed for those high gas prices,” Sharp explained. “And frankly, they should be blamed.”

Republican lawmakers also call the requirement ridiculous. Senate GOP Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) says private business owners shouldn’t be forced to advertise a small discount at the pump on behalf of state lawmakers. McConchie hopes the litigation is successful as he feels the law is forcing political speech.

“The General Assembly didn’t force advertisement when they doubled the gas tax here a few years ago, right? So it is absolutely select picking and choosing and for a political end,” McConchie said. “That’s really unfortunate.”

Republicans also note that this is temporary relief that will end shortly after the election. The cost of living bump for the Motor Fuel Tax will return on Jan. 1. Drivers will also be hit with another tax increase at the pump on July 1, 2023.

Sharp told the Gray TV Illinois Capitol Bureau that the Pritzker administration never talked with his organization about this requirement before the budget was signed. The IFRA plans to file a lawsuit within the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the governor says providing meaningful relief to working families is Pritzker’s top priority as gas prices remain high.

“Suspending the gas tax increase accomplishes this,” stated Alex Gough. “Informing consumers of the gas tax relief they are entitled to is a practice that dates back to 2000 under a Republican administration and does not promote the Governor or the lawmakers, including nearly every Republican, who voted for the measure. However, it ensures consumers see the benefit of bipartisan action.”

Former governor George Ryan signed the proposal to suspend the five percent sales tax on motor fuel and gasohol for six months on June 29, 2000. Retailers were also required to post a notice about this change and faced $500 fines if the stickers were not posted.

Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) also highlighted the impact of the current gas tax suspension during the budget signing ceremony Tuesday. He said lawmakers know Illinois families are in desperate need of relief given the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of inflation.

“After months of negotiations, today the governor is signing a budget that supports people and families that need help the most, and provides tax incentives to support Illinois businesses,” Zalewski said Tuesday. “This budget reaffirms our commitment to recovery for families and businesses across Illinois.”

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