MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday issued an executive order declaring that an abnormal economic disruption exists in Wisconsin due to a disruption of energy supplies, allowing himself to trigger a statewide ban on gasoline and diesel price gouging.
In the order, Evers said that the disruption in supply “poses a serious risk to the economic well-being of Wisconsin, both at the individual consumer level and to our essential tourism industry.”
By making that declaration, Evers could implement a ban on the sale of wholesale and retail diesel and gasoline “at unreasonably excessive prices.” The order will remain in effect until Dec. 1.
The average price of a gallon of gasoline in Wisconsin on Tuesday was about $4.83, which is below the national average of $4.97, according to AAA.
Complaints of alleged price gouging can be filed with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, one of five Republicans running for a chance to take on Evers in November, dismissed the executive order.
“Tony Evers’ disingenuous executive order is nothing more than an election-year stunt, attempting to deflect from his own failures, which include proposing a near 40-percent increase in the gas tax," she said in a statement.
Evers, in his first state budget proposal in 2019, called for raising the gas tax by 8 cents per gallon, with future increases tied to inflation. He also called for ending the state's “minimum markup law” on gasoline, which he argued would result in a net savings for drivers.
The Republican-controlled Legislature rejected his proposal, but Republicans and the state chamber of commerce have been using it against him this year as gas prices soar and Evers is seeking reelection.
Wisconsin law prohibits gas stations from raising prices more than once in 24 hours, but there is no limit as to how much they can raise prices when they do so. There is a “minimum markup law” that prevents retailers from selling gas and other goods below cost in an attempt to attract customers.
While there is no law against price gouging, there is a mechanism that Evers used that allows for a governor to declare there to be an abnormal economic disruption, which prohibits the excessive raising of gas prices.
Evers on Tuesday also renewed his call for the federal government to suspend the federal gas tax. He also sent a letter calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to waive federal reformulated gas requirements for six southeastern Wisconsin counties through the end of the year.
Evers estimated that waiving that requirement would reduce the cost of gasoline by 30 cents per gallon in Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha counties.