A week ago in this space, we warned of a likely price increase at the gas pump this month.
All signs pointed to a slight rise, from the normal increase in summer demand to an uptick in the price of crude oil on the world markets.
But I don't think anyone saw that 26-cent-a-gallon hike coming a few days ago. Prices have since dropped back between 5 and 10 cents a gallon but were still sitting in the $2.25- to $2.30-a-gallon range at the end of the week.
Part of the reason may have been tied to the recent passing of the Illinois budget.
Included inside the 583-page budget was the elimination of a 20 percent sales tax credit that was given to wholesalers on unleaded gas containing ethanol. That cost is being be passed along to consumers at about 4 to 5 cents a gallon, depending on where you live. (And because this is a sales tax, not a gas tax, the money goes into the general fund and is not designated for road repairs.)
That still didn't account for the 26-cent hike we saw a few days ago.
Even an industry expert like Mike Right was baffled. Right, a vice president of the St. Louis AAA Auto Club, has monitored various gas-related markets in the Midwest, South and the often-volatile Gulf Coast for more than 40 years.
"We're seeing an increase in demand right now, and maybe there was a refinery glitch somewhere ... I don't really know," said Right, who is a regular contributor to The Herald-Whig. "But it concerns me what is happening in Illinois."
A 26-cent increase at the pump can do that.
What others are saying
º Champaign News-Gazette: "While hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans are working, they're experiencing among the nation's worst personal income growth ... with no signs of any improvement. Michael Lucci, an economist with the Illinois Policy Institute, posts that ‘Illinois' income growth is so weak because jobs growth is lagging, paycheck growth is small and too many wage earners are leaving the state -- and taking their earning power with them.' "
º The Washington Post: "Spreading out when food stamps are issued reduced theft from Chicago grocery stores by more than 30 percent, according to new research. Before 2010, most benefits in Illinois under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the massive federal food stamp program, were given out on the first of the month. In 2010, the state enacted a new policy that spread distribution more evenly throughout the month. There are a few reasons to do this: Officials don't get hit with a huge workload all at once, and stores don't suffer overcrowding. And previous research found that some grocery stores hike up their prices near the beginning of the month, when they know food stamp recipients will get their benefits."
º The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald: "Though Cook County's minimum wage and sick leave ordinances went into effect July 1, some suburbs are still debating whether to follow them. A Daily Herald survey of 134 municipalities in suburban Cook County shows more than three-quarters have opted out of two county ordinances that raise the minimum wage to $10 (an hour) and mandate businesses pay employees up to five sick days. Municipalities -- by vote of local village boards and councils -- can choose to opt in or out at any time. Local chambers of commerce have implored municipalities to opt out, arguing businesses would be harmed by higher labor costs than competitors in adjacent suburbs. Supporters contend that the county was right to take action because state and federal governments haven't."
The top five
The top-selling brands of jeans, according to strongestintheworld.com:
1. Levi Strauss & Co. (United States).
2. Wrangler (United States).
3. Diesel (Italy).
4. Pepe (England).
5. True Religion (United States).
?Words of wisdom
Bronze medal: "Large corporations welcome innovation and individualism in the same way the dinosaurs welcomed large meteors." -- Dilbert comic strip.
Silver medal: "The public does not know what is possible. We do." -- Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony.
Gold medal: "If you can, be first. If you can't be first, create a new category in which you can be first." -- Al Ries and Jack Trout, authors of "The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing."