With the implementation of the mandated gas pump sticker announcing a delay in a gas tax increase looming, a pending lawsuit argues the legislative intent is political.
Part of the state budget that begins July 1 is a delay in the annual gas tax increase, an estimated two cents a gallon. The delay is for six months with the expected increase taking effect at the pump Jan. 1 with another scheduled increase July 1, 2023.
The law also requires gas stations to post a sticker on each gas pump stating the gas tax increase has been delayed.
The Illinois Fuel and Retail Association, which represents gas stations and convenience stores across the state, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the sticker mandate. Part of the lawsuit highlights state Rep. Mike Zalewski’s comments during an April committee hearing.
“I think people that are pumping gas, and are looking at the price, their gaze will fix upon the pump and maybe they’ll read about the good things that we did,” Zalewski, D-Riverside, said in that April committee hearing.
IFRA’s Josh Sharp said the sign is inherently political.
“This is a political announcement about delaying a tax increase, that ought not be a legal requirement on our members, and they certainly shouldn’t be subject to fines or criminal penalties for failing to post those signs,” Sharp told WMAY.
The budget package also includes a reduction of the state’s grocery tax from 1% to zero for 12 months. While grocery stores are supposed to post a sign, or print on receipts, the reduced tax, there is no financial penalty in the law for failure to post the notice.
Another part of the retailers’ lawsuit links to a political ad being run by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reelection campaign.
“What does Governor Pritzker’s budget mean for you?” the narrator says.
“J.B. froze the gas tax,” a subject in the commercial says. “It means relief for us. Not for oil companies.”
Sharp said the ad doesn’t mention fines for Illinois fuel retailers for not going along with what he called a state-mandated public relations effort being forced on retailers.
“We can’t stand by and have our members subject to those kinds of potential fines and penalties,” Sharp said. “Again, it’s $500 a day, per pump. So a gas station with eight or ten pumps, those fines get very expensive, very quickly. And, again, that’s why we’re headed to court to stop the signage requirement.”
A hearing in the case has yet to be set. The mandate goes into effect July 1.