(The Center Square) – The Illinois Fuel and Retail Association plans to challenge the constitutionality of the requirement that gas stations promote a delay in the gas tax increase that Gov. J.B. Pritkzer signed into law Tuesday.
As part of the largest spending plan in Illinois state history, signed into law is a series of tax policy changes totaling $1.8 billion that found bipartisan support, though Republicans criticized the temporary measures as not real relief. Among those are one-time income and property tax rebates, tax credits for earned income and teachers. There’s also a sales tax holiday for school supplies set for a week in August.
Other tax changes include temporarily reducing to zero the state’s 1% tax on groceries and delaying the cost of living increase on the state’s gas tax of about 2 cents a gallon. The grocery tax would be zero for a year. The gas tax delay would be for six months. Both policies don’t kick in until July 1 after the governor signed the measures into law Tuesday.
Appearing with the governor in Chicago, state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, said the approved tax measure helps working Illinoisans.
“We were able to help people at the grocery store,” Zalewski said. “We were able to help people at the gas pump. We were able to help teachers who go out of their way to purchase school supplies for their kids every year.”
But the measure also requires gas stations to post signs about the delayed tax increase.
Josh Sharp with the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association said their board voted Tuesday to file a lawsuit. He said there’s a place for signs about fire safety or octane ratings, but the speech compelled by the law Pritzker signed “is of a different sort” during an election year.
“This is political speech,” Sharp told The Center Square. “This is telling people about a tax cut and to us, again, forcing retailers to post those signs under the threats of fines or penalties is unconstitutional.”
The law imposes daily fines of $500 on retailers who do not post such stickers. It’s still unclear how much the stickers will cost and who is expected to cover those costs, but it’s expected a lawsuit will be filed soon.
Things got political at the bill signing Tuesday.
State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, said the plan provides real relief to record inflation and Republicans are being disingenuous in their criticism of the budget while supporting election-year tax cuts.
“There are some who will tell you there are political games in play,” Sims said. “Well, the only political games in play are those who will vote for the tax cuts but won’t vote for the investments.”
While Republicans didn’t support the spending plan, they did support the tax cuts, though Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said Republicans wanted broader and more permanent, not temporary, cuts.
“Under the Democrats’ plan, you’re going to see two inflation-based increases on the motor vehicle fuel tax on gasoline next year, once on Jan. 1 and then again on July 1 of next year,” McConchie told The Center Square. “That’s not providing real relief to taxpayers.”