Eye On Illinois: Forget pump stickers, let’s get detailed receipts

Senate Bill 1310 required retailers to post a notice on gas pumps alerting customers the per gallon price reflects a temporary change in the motor fuel tax. Stations that don’t comply face a $500 penalty.

Does that make you angry? Would you be any less angry if you knew the governor who signed SB 1310 was Republican George Ryan, on June 29, 2000?

A hat tip to Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller, who resurrected coverage of the old policy just before current lawmakers voted to require 4-by-8-inch stickers reading: “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.”

Republicans blasted the measure as election year propaganda, although the sticker doesn’t mention a political party and many Republicans voted to enact the tax increase in the first place, as well as the suspension.

Obviously nothing passes without at least some Democrats voting yes. I’ve repeatedly questioned the political value of a suspension that essentially says “gas was gonna cost you more, now it won’t for a while but it will eventually.” But if you want to be angry about what you learn while pumping gas, take a look at your next receipt and realize what you don’t see.

My Tuesday grocery trip cost $1.38 in sales tax from items taxed at 1.75% and 20 cents for those taxed at 8%. Aside from not explaining which items are taxed at which rate — the $2.46 Pepsi bottle was the lone trigger of the 8% figure — and no clarification of local versus state cuts (the local accounts for 0.75% on the groceries and 1.75% on the soft drink), this receipt is a fountain of information compared with Monday’s fuel stop.

The shop around the corner charged me $4.189 for each of my 10.014 gallons, so I paid $41.95. That’s the subtotal and total because the “tax” line reads $0.00.

A quick poke around online reveals the state tax is $0.392 per gallon. The federal rate is $0.184, my county charges $.040. Altogether that’s 61.6 cents per gallon. But those are just the gas taxes. I’m also paying state and local sales taxes, bringing the total closer to $8.70. And the receipt says zilch.

I don’t expect retailers to disclose profit margins, and I don’t scrutinize every receipt. Yet while property tax bills are extremely informative, everyday receipts seem intentionally devoid of details. We’d all be much better informed by knowing, to the penny, how much of each purchase goes to each jurisdiction.

Taxes are a fact of life, but understanding which body takes what shouldn’t be shrouded in bureaucratic mystery.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at