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Taxes hidden at the pump

Government has role in high prices

Published: Thursday, May 30, 2013 9:53 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – I set a personal record the other day that I’m not particularly proud of – I spent $76 filling up my car with gas.

That’s money that won’t go toward charity, my kids or a whole host of things that I would rather spend it on.

Instead it was poured right into the gas tank.

A lot of us had that feeling Memorial Day weekend as we filled our cars before taking a trip. Illinois has the fifth- highest state gasoline tax rates in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. But even that doesn’t tell us the whole story.

Cities around the state are able to tack on taxes of their own.

For example, if you were to buy 15 gallons of gas in Chicago this week you’d likely pay $66.23, of which $12.40 would go to federal, state and local taxes.

In border regions of Illinois, folks are filling up their cars in neighboring states. This loss of commerce hurts not only Illinois service stations, but also the workers they employ.

“Illinois is one of the most expensive places to do business,” said Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association. “A big reason for it being so expensive is taxes, and taxes on fuel are part of that.”  

Why do politicians find gas taxes attractive?

Because they think you are too dumb to know you are being taxed.

The assumption among politicians is that you’ll blame someone other than them for the high prices at the pump.

Fingers get pointed at OPEC, Big Oil, speculators and just about anyone involved with the petroleum industry. But rarely do politicians accept part of the blame.

In fact, they do their best to obscure their role in high gas prices.

State law doesn’t allow gas stations to advertise their prices at the pump without the taxes already included.

I don’t know of any other retailer that is forced to post their prices that way.

It all comes back to a prevailing arrogance of elected officials.

They think they know how to spend your money better than you know how to spend your money.  

Think about that the next time you fill your car up with gas – or step into a voting booth. ———

Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at sreeder@illinoispolicy.org. Readers can subscribe to his free political newsletter by going to ILNEWS.ORG or follow his work on Twitter @scottreeder

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