Budget bills introduced by Illinois Democrats in the waning hours of session and that were passed early Saturday will require private-sector retailers to notify consumers of temporary “tax relief” measures included in them. Critics say the requirements are an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights and forced campaign propaganda during an election year.
The budget will require gas stations to post stickers on pumps noting that an inflationary gas tax increase of about 2.2 cents a gallon that’s scheduled to go into effect July 1 has been suspended for six months. Retailers that refuse will face a $500 daily fine. Election Day, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker and all state legislative seats are on the ballot, is Nov. 8. Retailers that refuse to post the stickers through Election Day face fines of more than $65,500.
The stickers will say, “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.”
The sponsor of the measure, state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, couldn’t provide an estimate on how much it would cost to put such a sticker on every gas pump.
Grocery stores also must note on receipts “to the extent feasible” that the state suspended the 1% grocery tax for a year. The message on the receipts must say “From July 1, 2022 through July 1, 2023, the State of Illinois sales tax on groceries is 0%.” The legislation says “if it is not feasible for the retailer to include the statement on any cash register tape, receipt, invoice, or sales ticket issued to customers, then the retailer shall post the statement on a sign that is clearly visible to customers. The sign shall be no smaller than 4 inches by 8 inches.”
State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said the gas pump sticker isn’t just ethically questionable in an election year, it’s like a comedy sketch show that highlights how much more expensive Illinois’ gas tax is to neighboring states.
“So is the sticker going to say ‘hey, gas is 50 cents more a gallon over here across the border or across the river, it would have been 52.2 cents more, but here’s a sticker to say it’s only 50 cents more,’” Batinick said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and legislative Democrats doubled the state’s gas tax in 2019, increasing it from 19 cents a gallon to 38 cents, and added an annual increase tied to inflation. It’s that annual increase for this year that’s been suspended for six months, not the doubling of the state gas tax in 2019 or the inflationary increases that already have kicked in.
Illinois is also one of only a few states that assesses its sales tax on top of the gas tax, so motorists in Chicago and elsewhere are paying about 50 cents a gallon in state taxes alone, second highest in the U.S.
Lawmakers and Pritzker didn’t require stickers to be posted on pumps when they doubled the gas tax in 2019.
Josh Sharp of the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association said before Saturday’s approval of the budget bills that the forced sticker notice is unconstitutional.
“This industry won’t be forced into offering free election year advertising for the Governor,” Sharp said. “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.”
Sharp said retailers would sue over the requirement.
This article was originally posted on Illinois Democrats’ plan to force retailers to post ‘tax relief’ details is unconstitutional, election year propaganda