Lightfoot orders her name on $12.5M in gas, transit cards

Lightfoot orders her name on $12.5M in gas, transit cards

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s name will be on 150,000 prepaid gas and transit cards she plans to raffle off to Chicagoans. She’s trying again after aldermen initially rejected the $12.5 million proposal as an election stunt.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposal to raffle $12.5 million in prepaid transit cards with her name printed on them to Chicagoans was narrowly approved April 20 by the City Council Budget Committee, moving it to the council floor for consideration.

Lightfoot’s plan to send 50,000 prepaid gas cards each worth $150 and 100,000 passes covering $50 in Chicago Transit Authority fares to city residents, dubbed “Chicago Moves,” was initially rejected by the council April 6. Council members alleged the mayor’s program was an election stunt offering only minor relief from high fuel prices for Chicagoans.

The amended ordinance would earmark $9.35 million in transit cards for Chicagoans on the South and West sides. It would also lower the income threshold for qualifying residents to $65,300 for individuals or $93,200 for a family of four to target lower-income households.

When aldermen initially rejected the plan, many pointed to Lightfoot including her name on the cards as cause for concern.

“I don’t think that’s a good look,” Ald. Gilbert Villegas told WTTW. He was once Lightfoot’s closest ally as her appointed floor leader in the Chicago City Council.

“I’m all about making sure that we’re getting money into the hands of the people. I want to make sure that it does include as many people as possible that need assistance,” Villegas said.

Lightfoot’s proposal arrives on the heels of the Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s own efforts to advertise his tax relief programs before voters consider him for reelection. Illinois gas stations on July 1 will be required to put signs on their pumps advertising his 6-month tax hike delay – or pay $500-a-day fines. It would cost a protesting station owner $65,000 in fines between the July 1 start date and Election Day.

He did the same for the year-long grocery sales tax suspension, but without the fines.

The mayor in March proposed a temporary – or even permanent – repeal of Chicago’s new 3-cent per gallon gas tax that she imposed atop a 5-cent tax, citing necessary relief for record prices at the pump. However, reports said Lightfoot opted for the prepaid cards because of pressure from aldermen and union leaders concerned about the $18 million projected drop in city revenues.

Prices at the pump in Chicago were the highest anywhere in the state April 21 at $4.77 a gallon. The Illinois average was $4.40, and the national average was $4.12.

Chicagoans have experienced three gas tax increases in the past 18 months. They now pay an 8-cent city gas tax, 39 cents in state taxes and 6 cents in Cook County taxes.

City drivers pay another 10% of the before-tax price of gas at the pump in sales taxes. All told, taxes add about $15 to every fill-up in Chicago.

A final vote on Lightfoot’s $12.5 million transit program could come as soon as April 27.

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