Illinois Bill Would Ban Adults From Pumping Their Own Gas

Rep. Camille Lilly, who authored the bill, says her legislation will lead to more safety, convenience, and jobs.


The free market experiment of letting people pump their own gas is over. It failed. That appears to be the message behind a new piece of Illinois legislation that would prohibit self-service gas stations.

"No gas may be pumped at a gas station in this State unless it is pumped by a gas station attendant employed at the gas station," reads the Gas Station Attendant Act, which was introduced last week by state Rep. Camille Lilly (D–Oak Park).

Should it pass, Illinois would join New Jersey as the only other state in the union to prohibit self-service gas stations. Oregon allows self-service gas stations in counties of less than 40,000 people but maintains prohibitions everywhere else in the state. A bill to allow gas stations in the Beaver State to designate a quarter of their pumps as self-service failed in 2019.

Lilly's proposal has raised eyebrows. The representative told a columnist with Peoria's JournalStar that the response to her bill had been "really aggressive."

In an attempt to quell some of this outrage, Lilly took to Twitter. Her bill, she said, would create "safety and convenience at the pump." She also has said that it is her intention to amend the bill to merely mandate minimum staffing levels at gas stations.

Increasing safety is the best justification for Lilly's bill. It's still not a very good one.

According to a study from the National Fire Protection Association, there were 5,000 gas station fires per year between 2004 and 2008, which resulted in an average of two deaths a year and $20 million in property damage. That seems like a pretty small risk given that there were 117,000 gas stations in the country at the time. The number of gas station fires has also fallen dramatically since 1980, the NFPA notes, even as self-service has become more common.

There's also not much reason to assume that a gas station attendant who's responsible for filling up multiple cars at once is going to be more careful than individual motorists.

While drivers in the states that still mandate full-service like to talk up the convenience of not having to get out of their car, the fact that the practice doesn't persist when it's not mandated is proof enough that people are not willing to pay the costs of this higher level of service.

The Illinois Policy Institute, a think tank, notes that motorists in that state are already paying the third-highest gas taxes in the country.

Self-service stations can also create convenience in other ways. The fewer staff members needed to man the pumps mean businesses can reassign employees to manning registers, making food, or performing other tasks their customers value more.

Lower operating costs at self-service gas stations might also mean gas stations can afford to stay open later or operate in more remote locations, where business is slower. Oregon's legalization of self-service pumps in rural counties was all about increasing service levels in remote areas of the state where it wasn't economical to have a gas station attendant on hand 24 hours a day.

Lilly's desire to create jobs is also a poor justification for either banning self-service gas stations or mandating staffing levels.

The more consumers have to pay for a service they don't want, the less money they have to spend on other things that they do want. Higher staffing costs leave gas stations with less money to pay vendors or reinvest in their businesses.

The effect is to make the economy poorer and less productive. That's not a win for capital, labor, or consumers.

The one silver lining in Illinois' proposal is how much people hate it. In Oregon and New Jersey, motorists have strong negative reactions to rolling back their state's full-service mandates. Illinois residents are clearly having the opposite reaction.

This demonstrates the small-c conservativism of many voters; once people have the right to do something, they are not eager to lose it.

NEXT: Welp, at Least New Hampshire Counted the Votes on Time

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  1. Stupid governance like this is the reason why people are moving to states like Texas and away from states like Illinois.

    1. When I moved from the east coast to Colorado, I planned my trip specifically with the least amount of time in Illinois as possible. Didn’t even stop for gas, that state will never make a penny off of me if I can help it.

      1. When I used to drive up and down the West Coast I did the same thing – I avoided getting gas in Oregon.

        1. I still do drive up and down the west Coast, and Cali is wayyy more expensive, so Oregon don’t bug me so much.

    2. I grew up in Illinois, and pumped gas as a teen. I HUGELY doubt anyone who is capable of driving a car is INCAPABLE of safely fueling it. This kind of crap is one reason, among many, why people are FLEEING Illinois. Also, it is NOT surprising that a bill as utterly stupid as this one is a Democratic creation, or should I say “excretion”?

    3. Yeah, but these ARE Illinoisans. This could be a first step to prohibiting them from driving. I think we should hear it out.

  2. I could not get inside the heads of people like Lilly if I wanted to, and I certainly do not want to.

      1. Thank you for that. So good you had a read a couple of lines to be certain it is parody.

        It was parody, right?


        1. Probably, but it could be true.

  3. As an Oregon resident, lately of CA, I actually like having someone else pump my gas, as does my wife. And we don’t mind spending a few cents more for the privilege. That being said, I fully understand those who wish to pump their own gas, especially if it saves them some money. Mandate having to have an employee pump one’s gas? Nope. I can always find a service station with gas-jockeys, if I choose too.

    1. You sound like a free market subversive. There will be a place for people like you to learn and contemplate the error of your ways…

    2. I vacationed in Oregon last year – and while I knew that for most of Oregon, gas station attendants pump gas, I still chuckled a bit when I stopped to have gas put in my rental vehicle. It was sort of rainy day, so I didn’t mind the help. Seems like I paid more than “a few cents more” for the privilege. Down where I live in Florida I believe gasoline is about 20 cents less per gallon.

      1. Yeah, gas in Oregon isn’t cheap. But I don’t think you can put the high cost primarily on the gas-jockeys, since CA is about 99% self-serve and gas there is a buck or more per gallon.

      2. South Florida, old craters in their Medicaid sleds keep some full-service stations in business because they can afford to pay not to have to learn how to use a gas pump. I’ve seen them where the attendant will pull your car up to the pump for you if you’re too senile to remember which side the gas cap’s on or too blind to get within 15 feet of the pump without hitting it.

        1. This is why my elderly father renewed his license in Florida rather than our home state where he lived most of the time. It’s a common practice among Florida’s elderly winter only residents.

      3. And the fun part is that the state taxes on fuel in FL are 44.99 cents/gal while Oregon is 36.82 cents/gal.
        And yet the total n OR is higher – – – –

        1. We have higher gas prices due to a variety of factors, one of the main being the lack of refineries in the west.

          We’re about to get some Leftist Cap and Trade mandate passed that will rocket our prices up to rival California… not happy about that at all.

          The entire west is dominated by the Left. Makes me sad.

    3. I remember when California had a mix of full and self service. Most people didn’t want to pay extra for full service so stations dropped the option.
      Some people are still willing to pay extra if given the choice. Some are willing if they don’t have a choice. In California, most weren’t willing once they had the option.

      1. There is a gas station where I used to live in CA that has been there since the 1960’s. They still have “full-serve” and “self-serve” islands. Full-serve means they wash your windshield, pump your gas, and ask if you want your oil checked, etc. When they aren’t busy (which they usually are), they also offer this at the self-service island. They also post birthdays, anniversaries, etc, for their customers, on an outdoor sign. They have, over the years, established a wonderful relationship with the local community, Sometimes, going the extra mile in pleasing your customers pays off. Whodathunk?

        1. Great. Free markets at work.

    4. Not just a few cents more. The few full service stations still operating in my state are $0.10 to $0.25 more PER GALLON than self service stations.

  4. When I was in high school I worked at a local Gulf station. Pumped gas, stocked shelves, cleaned and fixed tires. Worked thru the some bad winters. Learned a lot of my boss about running a business. That said, I like to pump my own. BTW, I made 2 dollars an hour and thought I was living large.

    1. My first “real job” paid $1.69/hr, so yeah, you were living large.

  5. Anyone else remember circa 2000-2001 when various parts of Illinois tried to make it illegal to use a cell phone at a gas pump because, supposedly, electrical or static discharge was causing car fires?

    This reminds me of that.

    1. It wasn’t just Illinois.

  6. What a story. Now I know why Reason hasn’t had time to mention an ongoing 4-year attempted Presidential coup involving the entire federal government and international media.

    1. Wait, the entire government is trying to overthrow the president? Please, tell me more. This is the first I’ve heard of such a thing.

      1. “This is the first I’ve heard of such a thing.”

        That was my point.


  7. “The number of gas station fires has also fallen dramatically since 1980, the NFPA notes, even as self-service has become more common.”

    So banning self-service gas stations not only will create low-paying jobs many people might not want, but has the potential of increasing employment for fire fighters and burn center teams.

  8. I maintain that the greatest thing Melville ever wrote was “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, and it should be central to the libertarian canon.

    I don’t care what the critics say, the story is about autonomy and uselessness. They say Bartleby is acting differently than the other people in his office, but he’s not: he’s acting useless just like them–only more so.

    The narrator creates a useless business to enrich himself by taking advantage of rent seeking, and once Bartleby, who recently escaped the useless job he had before, realizes that his new job is also useless, he begins to assert his individual autonomy in a way that is undeniably useless–if that’s the world he lives in, he’ll embrace his autonomy to be more useless than they could ever be.

    Bartleby goes insane and dies from severe uselessness.

    The idea that a politician thinks they’re doing anybody a favor by creating a useless job for them is horrifying.

    Happiness comes from autonomy and usefulness.

    Being forced to pay for the work of useless people against my will doesn’t make me happy either.

    1. “…Bartleby goes insane and dies from severe uselessness…”

      Anybody seen Tony recently?

      1. No I haven’t.

        Crusty vanished a while ago too. I wonder what became of him.

      2. I say Sevo wins the comments today.

    2. “I maintain that the greatest thing Melville ever wrote was “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, and it should be central to the libertarian canon.”

      I won’t argue with that. “Billy Budd” is great, too.

    3. The tax prep industry is useless and thriving. The trick is to create a useless job for someone and then convince them that they aren’t useless. It won’t work on everyone, but it will work on enough of them to create a consistent base of supporters. Who cares if they’re happy?

    4. I always think of the Elevator Call Button Pressing Girls of Japan.

      Such a fulfilling job.

  9. Cafe Hayek is on top of this in his usual open letter.

  10. The gas station/convenience store where I buy gas in my smallish Illinois town(~10000) has twelve pumps. Many times of day there is a vehicle at every pump. I have to imagine that one attendant trying to attend more than one pump at a time would not be a prudent policy. Doesn’t seem like the establishment would be too profitable if it had to employ twelve pump attendants.

    1. And there’s no way one person manning 12 pumps would be as safe as self-serve, either. The sooner you’re aware of a spill, the better. What if he’s rushing over to pump 12 when the overflow preventer on pump 1 fails?

    2. The safety aspect is a false flag and shouldn’t be regarded as serious.

      Read the attached report. A significant portion, like 10%, of the fires reported were caused by something else that was on fire but not even on the property. The actual number of fires where the gasoline at the pump is the primary source of ignition is something like 800-900 of the 5000 fires and the majority of the time, the only damage or injury is to the car/occupant (as opposed to someone lighting a dumpster on fire behind a gas station which ends up burning the whole station down).

      The EIA lists total retail fuel sales as something like 80 billion gallons for the time period listed. At 20 gallons per fill that’s 4 billion fills. At 800 ‘spills turned fires’ the risk is getting to be well below the safety standards to which the car itself is manufactured.

    3. At 800 ‘spills turned fires’ the risk is getting to be well below the safety standards to which the car itself is manufactured.

      If you played the lottery every time you filled up, after your ~10th jackpot win, you should start paying someone else to fuel up your car because you’re due for a car fire.

    4. Here in Kiwiland half the time all the pumps are busy, half the time one or two are in use. That would be a lot of pump jockeys standing around making bank while the petrol station goes broke…

  11. This needs to be paired with a law requiring that gas station attendants must be paid at least $15/hr.

    1. Don’t forget the law prohibiting gas stations from raising their prices to pay for the free job creation.

    2. Do you have any idea how much smugness you could get out of Tesla owners by charging them $18.75 for the service of charging their Tesla? I bet it’s like tons, tons of smugness.

    3. They already passed a $15 minimum wage

  12. Oak Park clearly elected an idiot.

    1. I wish that condition was limited to Oak Park; I live in CA.

  13. I have seen an idiot smoking at a gas pump exactly once. It was in New Jersey and the smoker was the attendant, smoking as he pumped gas.

    1. A cigarette isnt hot enough to ignite gas.

      1. A cigarette burns at 1100 Fahrenheit. Gas ignites at 536 Fahrenheit. It’s called science.

    2. Not to lessen your point about the attendant being part of the problem, but you can douse a lit match in gasoline. We used to do it all the time as kids.

      I used to work at a Co-Op that sold liquid propane. Delivery drivers would routinely get out of the truck with a lit cigarette in their mouth, toss it, hook up the pump, walk 15-20 ft. and light up again. I certainly agree that it was dangerous as all hell and absolutely unnecessary but, especially in the winter, the LP’s got to get delivered and nobody’s going to stand out in -20 degree weather to make sure the delivery driver has walked the required 75 ft. away from the truck before lighting up.

      Again, I did at least part of the math above, it’s something like 8-900 fires at the nozzle for 4 *b*illion fill ups. Even if we switch attendants either way and the rate doubled, the risk you took driving to the gas station is something like 10X the risk of the fill up.

      1. It’s the fumes that get you. People always forget about the fumes.

        1. The hot dogs on those rollers inside. That and a Red Bull.

  14. Follow the money: They also want to raise the min wage to $15. This will force many more hires at gas stations, so they can claim an increase in employment numbers. More employees mean higher gas prices. Higher gas prices mean more gas tax revenue.

    1. Depends on if the state puts sales tax on the fuel; if it is just a tax per gallon, the reduced sales will result in less revenue.

      1. We have a $.38 tax per gallon. But we also charge regular sales tax, about 10% over much of the Chicago region

    2. You were correct until the last sentence. Gas taxes are by the gallon, not a percentage of the gasoline’s price.

  15. Someone needs to shake the dew off of this Lilly.

  16. Banning people from performing a menial task is was a Democrat calls “job creation”. This is why Illinois is hemoraging residents. Lived there a decade. It was terrible.

  17. In New Jersey it is illegal to pump your own gasoline, but it is not illegal to pump your own diesel fuel.

  18. And yet some of you assholes here express skepticism at just how popular Bernie “Free Shit” Sanders is.

  19. I wonder if the bill will be amended to assign full and unconditional liability for any credit card theft to the legislators who vote for the bill?

  20. As far as my friend Bob, who likes to have an attendant pump his gas, a state’s not prohibiting self service is effectively the same as a state’s prohibiting attendant service, because the latter practically disappears where the choice is legally allowed, so he doesn’t consider such a prohibitory law anti-choice, especially when it mandates the choice he prefers. Plus, as a Pennsylvania and formerly New York resident, he sees gas still being cheaper in New Jersey, and concludes the prohibition of self service doesn’t cost the buyer anything.

    Many people are skeptical of the amendment of legal regimes to allow businesses to cut costs as leading to lower costs for customers. They just figure businesses won’t pass along savings. Of course they also assume businesses will pass along increased costs, so in their minds change works only one way, i.e. to help businesses at their (typical people’s) expense.

  21. When I was driving through NJ one year I stopped off for gas and started to pump my own gas – because I’m not functionally retarded and don’t need mommy to take care of me like a retard – and a gas attendant came running out screaming he had to do it for me by law.


    And lame.

  22. Leave it to a Democrat to advocate for the creation of a bunch of low-skill dead-end jobs that will almost certainly cost consumers more money.

  23. I left Illinois for Virginia. Next month, I leave Virginia for a job overseas.

    1. Florida thanks you – – – –

  24. $15.00 minimum wage means gas is going to be very expensive in Illinois.

    1. And it will be the fault of those greedy oil companies.

  25. The nanny state at it again. Protecting us from ourselves. Actually someone from the petroleum industry probably brought a fat envelope to some sleazy politician trying to get this to pass so more money can be ripped from the average citizen.

    1. The opposite is true. The petroleum industry will lose money, due to the reduced usage of gasoline. This is all a union ploy, I’m sure. I bet the next thing is to require gas station attendants to be certified as gas station attendants, and conveniently some union will offer the training free to union members, and at a high cost to non-union workers.

  26. The representative told a columnist with Peoria’s JournalStar that the response to her bill had been “really aggressive.”

    Sounds like she’s got her finger on the pulse of her constituents.

  27. These must be the new high tech jobs of the future the politicians are barking about endlessly.

  28. Multiple studies have shown that self-serve pumps have not statistically increased the number of gasoline fires at stations, so safety will not be increased if we mandate that employees must pump all the fuel. If jobs are the main issue, we may as well mandate that a customer cannot pack and check out at the grocery stores, and a cashier and a bagger must do that. Then we go on to remove all self serve stations in every retail environment. While we are at it, why don’t we insist on attendants at desks in hospitals? The last two times I went in for procedures, I had to pick up a phone and call a number in order to get service, even though I had an appointment.

  29. The most dangerous problem facing America today is people pumping their own gas. God bless this woman for seeing the destruction and chaos and folly in allowing grown adults to pump gas. There should be certification, special training, and a licensing review board.
    (The politicians like this realize how stupid they sound?)

  30. Sounds like someone doesn’t like to pump her own gas and has figured out a way to not have to do it.

  31. Having noticed that gas prices are usually significantly less in similar areas in NJ compared to PA, I was usually surprised. But it seems that state gas prices are a function of a combination of state tax, how rural the areas are that are covered and average demand in each state. The effect of NJ’s ban of self service is probably there, but is swamped by other effects. It doesn’t even seem to have a visible effect when comparing two states with basically equal taxes (NJ=$0.41, CT=$0.42) and very similar income and development shows no significant effect from self vs non-self service; (NJ=$2.49, CT=$2.55). The higher price in CT is possibly from the additional rural areas in CT, but who really knows?
    I would not doubt that the bigger effect is the number of stations per person.

    1. New Jersey also has one of the largest refineries in the world.

  32. Coming soon from Lilly the Luddite Job Creator:
    Banning power tools at constructing sites
    Banning home appliances (and chopping your own wood)
    Banning TV, radio, and the internet
    Banning tractors and other farm equipment

    1. Start digging holes with spoons.

      1. But get a permit first!

  33. I like it. It will advance the development of robot pumps.

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  35. Who’s paying this legislator to propose this bill?
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  37. I wish you had done better research. I worked at a station in Oregon for almost three years. The prices a few miles away in Washington were oftentimes worse. When the law changed, the prices of stations affected didn’t drop, and their employees weren’t transferred, they were fired on the spot. As far as safety is concerned, I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I’ve had to remind people to turn off their car or put out their cigarettes, most of them from out of the state. We are also trained in how to handle spills and deal with emergency scenarios. If you’re going to be a journalist, you need to prioritize getting all the facts rather than just writing some opinion piece.

    1. Dave. I’m Texan. I’ve never had a gas station attendant in my life. Never even seen one. I can’t believe that I’m missing out.

      I can’t recall the last time I saw someone smoking while I pumped gas. You’d have to be a bit of an idiot to not turn off the car while you are exiting to pump. People unused to service might leave it on, similar to a car wash, which is their nearest equivalent.

      Finally, you have to acknowledge the basic economics of the issue. When you have more employees doing the same work, the cost goes up. Gas taxes and location-specific pricing change things, obviously, but all else being equal, prices go down significantly when you cut the attendant out of the equation.

    2. Dave, I’ve lived in Oregon. I’ve had to sit in a line late at night, with multiple available pumps, because there’s only one attendant operating two pumps. The gas stations are a joke.

      “The prices a few miles away in Washington were oftentimes worse.”

      I wonder if that has anything to do with the gas taxes? Or the fact that different gas stations have different prices, even in the same city.

      “As far as safety is concerned, I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I’ve had to remind people to turn off their car or put out their cigarettes, most of them from out of the state.”

      And yet somehow those people all seem to make it work when they go back to their home state. That makes me pretty skeptical of your story.

      The reason their cars were still running is probably because they wanted to keep their air conditioning running while they waited for you to get around to them.

  38. What a novel job creation scheme – for businesses to employ people.

  39. Resolved: “In order to increase the safety of banking transactions and to provide jobs, all bank transactions must be handled by a bank employee. ”

    See, with criminals using skimmers as ATMs, and sometimes kidnapping people and forcing them to use the ATM, it’s become clear that ATMs are a significant public safety problem. And so-called online banking is just asking to be ripped off.

    Plus, the put so many bank tellers out of a job.

    So we will be introducing a new bill to require that all bank transactions that previously were being done by ATM or online shall require a bank employee to handle the transactions. People will not mind the slight inconvenience of having to wait until banking hours, waiting in line, and dealing with surly bank employees (they’re only surly because they are underpaid, and our NEXT bill will address new mandatory minimum wages for bank tellers) because of the inherent safety being inside the bank will entail. And the costs associated with hiring all the new bank tellers will be zero, because we will force to banks to absorb those costs and prohibit them from passing them on to bank customers.

  40. This stupid bill is actually a job creation program for the failing school system.
    It doesn’t take much talent to pump gas, I was helping out at my grandfather’s service station when I was 8. Now school dropouts or those with useless diplomas will be able to find work.
    After this bill is passed there will be a gas attendants union that will contribute to the Democratic legislature’s campaigns which will lead to more goodies.
    I’m very happy not to live in Illinois.

  41. “there were 5,000 gas station fires per year between 2004 and 2008, which resulted in an average of two deaths a year and $20 million in property damage. That seems like a pretty small risk given that there were 117,000 gas stations in the country at the time”

    4.3% of gas stations have a fire every year? That seems like a lot to me. Unless it’s just that one gas station where everyone keeps having freak gasoline fight accidents.

  42. I was a pump jockey for a few months in S. Florida as a college student in the early 70s. Had to check the oil and wipe the windshield while the gas pumped. I had to run the CC or get change afterwards. Very few customers tipped.

    I can imagine the delays in the bigger stations with 15+ pumps when there is one guy doing all the pumping.

  43. It’s not like the old days before stations had self-serve, so they only had one or two pumps, and the attendant stood there the whole time and pumped your gas. Back then, before auto shutoffs on the nozzles or pay-at-the-pump, having attendants made sense. For most of us now, they are no more necessary than elevator attendants. When I had to buy gas in Oregon, the station had one attendant racing frantically around multiple pumps trying to keep things moving, like a guy spinning plates on sticks. Watching it was an absurd novelty, but I certainly wouldn’t want to have to deal with that all the time.

  44. “According to a study from the National Fire Protection Association, there were 5,000 gas station fires per year between 2004 and 2008, which resulted in an average of two deaths a year and $20 million in property damage. ”

    Taking bets on whether those numbers will increase or decrease once Illinois’s law takes effect.

  45. When travelling through Oregon, I time my road trips through Oregon to make my gas stops happen at Indian Reservations, so I don’t have to facilitate that nonsense.

    The logic behind it is disturbing. Safety and jobs when dealing with only a slightly risky, menial task? At what point does the argument stop?

    I mean I am guessing there are WAY more lawn mowing injuries. Should we ban self mowing? Only allow licensed lawn care professionals to operate a mower?

  46. Lilly is claiming that under the “concept” you can still pump your gas if you want:

    “You can continue to do that with this concept,” Lilly said. “As mentioned, the bill that is out there, it was just a vehicle to be utilized to talk about what the intent is. The thought we discussed was how can you have both these options at a gas station. This is not a bill I would move forward to make pumping your own gas illegal. That was never the intent.”


    As currently written, HB 4571 would create the “Gas Station Attendant Act,” which provides that no gas may be pumped at a gas station in the state unless it is pumped by a gas station attendant employed at the gas station.


    “The bill I chose looked at bringing what I would title safety and convenience at the gas pump,” Lilly said. “It had some verbiage that was not my intent at all.”

    So, she didn’t take the time to read the bill she copied from somewhere before she introduced it (assuming she can read)? Maybe she took her cue from Pelosi who thinks that legislatures should pass bills and then read them. Who knew that stupid could trickle down so far from the House?

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    Are they going to pass laws that you have to hire someone to plug in your car in your driveway because it’s not safe for you to do it yourself.

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  57. Reasons we need this law (sarcasm)
    o To stop the epidemic of people setting fires at gas pumps
    o Because everyone aspires to a career as a gas pump operator
    o Because gas prices aren’t high enough
    o Because gas lines aren’t long enough
    o Now we can remove this from our K-12 curriculum and our kids will be smarter.

  58. All of the arguments regarding the silliness of banning pumping gas are true. But, I have to tell you that I live in New Jersey and I really like not having to get out and pump gas. When I go over to Pennsylvania, i often fill up before I go over the bridge just to avoid pumping.

    Yes, it means I pay a little more, masked by the fact that New Jersey has lower than average gas tax.

    I also know that for many of my clients released from Prison with very few job prospects, can almost always find employment pumping gas.

    Maybe contrary to “Reason” but works for me.

    1. That’s funny, I do the opposite. I travel to Pennsylvania and New York state a good bit, and sometimes go over the border on fumes so I can pump my own.

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