Pritzker’s gas tax hike takes $277 from average Illinoisan

Pritzker’s gas tax hike takes $277 from average Illinoisan

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker touted a six-month delay in the next automatic gas tax hike as “tax relief.” But since he assumed office, the gas tax he raised has taken an extra $277 from every person in Illinois.

Illinoisans have paid an extra $3.5 billion for gas taxes since Gov. J.B. Pritzker doubled the state gas tax in 2019, which averages $277 for each state resident during his term.

The move also gave Illinois the second-highest gas taxes, up from 10th place before Pritzker. It currently helps drive up the price per gallon to ninth-highest in the nation.

Pritzker’s approval in 2019 of 24 tax and fee hikes not only doubled to 38 cents per gallon the 19-cent state gas tax, it built in an automatic annual inflation hike every July 1. His campaign is calling a six-month delay in the current hike “tax relief,” but the delay means two hikes 2023 when the delay expires and then the regular increase hits. The gas tax is then projected to be 45.2 cents per gallon.

Data from the Illinois Comptroller shows in former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s last 18 months in office, residents paid an average just shy of $118 million in gas tax per month. After Pritzker doubled the tax, that average became $200 million a month.

So Illinoisans now average 62% higher gas taxes under Pritzker.

During Pritzker’s full term, about $3.5 billion more in gas taxes will be collected than during Rauner’s term. That is an extra $277 tax burden per Illinois resident, regardless of whether they drive. That means a family of four will pay nearly $1,100 more in state gas tax alone during one term of Pritzker versus Rauner.

Pritzker insistently touts his gas tax hike “freeze” as helping Illinoisans suffer less when refueling their vehicles. A recent campaign video featured the claim Pritzker “froze the gas tax.” Pritzker also tweeted a similar message, claiming his administration was working to provide “direct tax relief” by freezing the tax.

Wrong. Pritzker did not freeze the gas tax: he only delayed an automatic inflationary increase on the tax. Even worse is Illinoisans will be doubly slammed after the election with the two hikes in 2023.

Rather than enacting meaningful relief at the pump for Illinoisans, Pritzker used the temporary, superficial delay as a re-election tactic, coercing gas stations statewide to install signs advertising the delay or face a $500-a-day fine.

Pritzker may express outward sincerity in wanting to lower the tax burden of Illinoisans, but the comptroller’s data on tax revenues during the COVID pandemic reveal a financial onslaught even during the lockdown when residents’ situations were most dire. For example, in May 2020, the state sapped almost $25 million more in gas taxes than during November 2018, Rauner’s most profitable tax month that year.

Worse, there is no guarantee the $878 million extra a year Pritzker asks his state’s residents to pay in gas go towards infrastructure as promised. Voters overwhelmingly ratified a “Lockbox Amendment” in 2016, but lawmakers found other ways to spend tax funds while masking it under transportation and infrastructure spending. In 2017, a federal investigation found the Illinois Department of Transportation gave hundreds of jobs to political affiliates regardless of job skills or actual labor demands.

More recently, a Better Government Association investigation found Pritzker’s “Rebuild Illinois” infrastructure package of 2020 was rife with wasteful pork projects, such as $98 million spent on dampening train brakes for a disgruntled Mike Madigan-associated business owner and the Illinois Toll Highway Authority handing out six-figure salaries to political allies.

Illinoisans will have paid over $3.5 billion more in gas taxes during Pritzker’s term. That seems like an odd definition of “relief.”

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