Willie Wilson announces third gas giveaway as Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweaks her own gas card plan

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayoral candidate and millionaire philanthropist Willie Wilson is planning a 3rd gasoline giveaway this weekend, after offering $1.2 million in free gasoline for drivers in Chicago and the suburbs in two earlier giveaways in March.

Wilson mentioned he’ll be making a gift of one other $1 million of free gasoline on Saturday at 30 to 40 gasoline stations within the metropolis and suburbs, though he mentioned he is engaged on finalizing a listing of stations.

It is the primary gasoline giveaway Wilson has introduced since he formally joined the race for mayor final week, his third time operating for mayor. It additionally comes as Mayor Lori Lightfoot continues to tweak her personal plan to offer away gasoline playing cards and transit playing cards with a purpose to get her proposal via the Chicago Metropolis Council.

Wilson denied that his gasoline giveaways are politically motivated as he runs for mayor once more, noting he is given away cash for years exterior of Chicago; together with to survivors of Hurricane Ida in New Orleans, in addition to funding masks giveaways in Los Angeles and different cities exterior Chicago.

“This isn’t a political factor,” he mentioned. “If it was a political factor, we wasn’t operating for mayor or nothing in New Orleans. We wasn’t operating for mayor in California.”

Wilson additionally known as on Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Prepare dinner County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to briefly droop state, native, and county gasoline taxes throughout the gasoline giveaway; though he acknowledged he doesn’t know if any of them have the facility to waive the gasoline tax on their very own, or in the event that they would want legislative approval of such a transfer.

“They ought to have the ability to determine that for themselves,” he mentioned. “Definitely in the event that they’re involved about its residents, they need to be capable to discover a approach of doing that with out placing extra hardship on its residents.”

A spokeswoman for Pritzker famous the governor’s 2023 price range plan already features a six-month freeze on the state’s gasoline tax when the brand new fiscal yr begins on July 1, which is able to imply a 2.4-cent-per-gallon inflationary enhance within the state’s motor gas tax might be held off till January.

Representatives from Lightfoot’s and Preckwinkle’s workplaces didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.

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In line with revealed stories, earlier than deciding on the gasoline card and transit card program, Lightfoot had thought of briefly rolling again a 3-cents-per-gallon metropolis gasoline tax enhance that went into impact final yr, however she mentioned Thursday she in the end determined offering gasoline playing cards to commuters was a more practical approach of relieving the ache on the pump.

Nevertheless, she mentioned she hasn’t shut down the thought of rolling again town’s gasoline tax.

“We have not rejected it, and clearly that is nonetheless obtainable to us, however in eager about what we might do to really present most affect, we thought that this might be a greater method to go to actually put a gasoline card within the palms of Chicago residents, after which clearly we need to proceed to emphasise the significance of reducing our carbon emissions by partnering up with the CTA to offer these transit riders some aid on the identical time,” she mentioned.

As of Tuesday, gasoline costs in Chicago have been averaging $4.77 per gallon for normal and $5.66 per gallon for premium, down barely from one month in the past, however nonetheless up considerably from one yr in the past, in line with the AAA.

Wilson mentioned, with gasoline costs probably going up even additional within the coming weeks, drivers want extra aid on the pump.

“Persons are actually hurting out right here by way of making an attempt to outlive, making an attempt to have the ability to pay lease, making an attempt to purchase groceries, and we’re simply making an attempt to play our half as nicely,” Wilson mentioned.

Wilson additionally mentioned he has no plans to cease his giveaways because the mayoral election attracts nearer; whether or not it is gasoline giveaways, or giving cash to the homeless or native church buildings, or to Ukrainian refugees.

“No. We can’t cease supporting individuals,” he mentioned.

Wilson’s earlier two gasoline giveaways brought on lengthy traces on the gasoline stations making a gift of gasoline, though due to improved coordination with native authorities, the second giveaway was capable of keep away from the visitors nightmares attributable to the primary one.

Tickets have been handed out to automobiles at every station to keep away from having individuals minimize the road, and every station was assigned one entry level and one exit level to assist decrease visitors disruptions.

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Wilson mentioned metropolis officers in Chicago have agreed to assist with visitors management once more on Saturday. A spokesperson for town’s Workplace of Emergency Administration and Communications mentioned they would offer these particulars within the subsequent day or two.

Meantime, Lightfoot continues to be making an attempt to go her personal plan to offer free gasoline playing cards and transit playing cards.

Her plan to offer away $150 gasoline playing cards to motorists and $50 Ventra playing cards to CTA customers confronted important pushback from a number of aldermen at a Metropolis Council Finances Committee listening to earlier this month, even after she agreed to decrease the earnings threshold from 140% of the world median earnings – or $140,000 for a household of 4 – to 100% of the world median earnings – or $93,200 for a household of 4.

Along with these earnings necessities, to be eligible for a gasoline card, candidates should be at the least 18 years previous, be residents of Chicago, and have a sound Chicago metropolis sticker with their present mailing tackle.

The Mayor’s workplace late Tuesday launched the design for the gasoline card, which has Mayor Lightfoot’s identify on it.

The mayor’s proposal is now anticipated to return up for a Finances Committee vote on Wednesday after she agreed to additional modifications to win over the assist of skeptical aldermen.

The most recent modifications would put aside 75% of the 50,000 gasoline playing cards to be given away for individuals dwelling in South and West facet neighborhoods deemed to be “Excessive Mobility Hardship Neighborhood Areas,” with the remaining 25% being given away citywide.

That is the identical distribution plan the mayor had already deliberate to make use of for the transit card giveaway.

Town additionally can be approved to shift cash between the gasoline card and transit card applications if officers decide demand for one giveaway is inadequate, and there are funds left over to pay for a lift to the opposite program.

Town plans to offer away a complete of fifty,000 pay as you go $150 gasoline playing cards, with 10,000 distributed every month beginning in Might. Town additionally plans to distribute a complete of 100,000 pay as you go $50 transit playing cards, with 75,000 to be given away in “excessive mobility hardship neighborhood areas” on the South and West sides, and the remaining 25,000 given out citywide.

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Metropolis Council Committee to vote on gasoline card giveaway

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If the mayor’s plan is accredited by the Finances Committee on Wednesday, the complete Metropolis Council would vote on the giveaways subsequent week. Lightfoot’s workplace plans to start accepting purposes for the giveaways on April 27, the identical day as the complete Metropolis Council vote, with distribution of playing cards anticipated to start someday subsequent month.

Wilson has criticized Lightfoot’s gasoline card giveaway plan, noting he is paying for his giveaways out of his personal pocket, whereas Lightfoot’s program can be funded with taxpayer {dollars}.

“I believe it is towards the legislation to make use of taxpayer {dollars} for political achieve, you recognize?” he mentioned.

Lightfoot on Tuesday denied her gasoline card giveaway is politically motivated, saying she’s responding to an “pressing want” for aid from surging gasoline costs.

“I’d simply level them to the $6 per gallon for normal that individuals are experiencing all around the metropolis,” she mentioned. “The very fact of the matter is gasoline costs have skyrocketed, and for working households specifically, working people, I’ve heard it in all places I am going that individuals are actually making an attempt to ration their budgets, as a result of they can not afford to replenish their gasoline tank.”

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