Illinois Democrats Fine Gas Stations That Don't Post Misleading Signs

A Chicago gas station in May / Getty Images
June 22, 2022

The Democrat-controlled Illinois legislature is requiring grocery stores and gas stations to post signs that give lawmakers credit for suspending the state's annual gas-tax increase. In reality, lawmakers just put off the tax hike until after this year's midterms.

The law forces grocery stores and gas stations to post signs that say the state has "suspended the inflation adjustment to the motor fuel tax through December 31, 2022"—one month after the midterm elections. "The price on this pump should reflect the suspension of the tax increase," the signs conclude. The state will fine gas stations $500 per day for not posting the signage, the Center Square reported.

The move comes as Democrats worry that record-setting inflation will hurt their electoral chances even in solidly blue states. The Democratic Party may suffer a "greater-than-average" loss in the 2022 midterms, according to a Gallup poll released last week, as Americans consider inflation under the Biden administration to be the nation's greatest challenge.

The reason for the signs is to make sure Illinoisans notice the legislature's tax delay, Democratic state representative Mike Zalewski said.

"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 said at an April committee hearing.

The legislature's delay is not a tax cut, Illinois Fuel and Retail Association CEO Josh Sharp told the Center Square, but rather a misleading appeal to voters.

"The gasoline tax in the state of Illinois is staying exactly the same on July 1 as it was the year before and now they're going to raise it twice in 2023," Sharp said. "They're just putting off that tax increase until after an election."

The Prairie State already has one of the highest gas taxes in the country, Forbes found. Multibillionaire Democratic governor J.B. Pritzker and lawmakers have doubled the tax since 2019, a move widely supported by unions.

The Illinois Fuel and Retail Association sued over the requirement, calling it forced political speech that violates the First Amendment. The association is issuing a sticker for gas stations and grocery stores that contains "the truth about gas prices lawmakers hope drivers will forget" alongside the required statement.