OAKWOOD – Chelsey DeYoung takes home less than $400 a month from her summer job at the Oakwood Public Library but spends almost $50 a month driving from her home in Fithian.
The 16-year-old is trying to save money for college.
Her mother, Lori DeYoung, said the family spends $300 a month on gas – more than their food, cable and phone bills combined.
"We really have struggled to make ends meet," said Lori DeYoung, who works in Danville.
High fuel prices have hit rural residents harder than those living in bigger cities, said Mike Frerichs, Champaign County auditor and Democratic state Senate candidate for the 52nd District. Frerichs on Thursday stood in front of the Oakwood library to discuss his gas price reduction plans.
The gas prices are "crippling" small towns because residents have to drive further distances for work, Frerichs said.
He said that Oakwood was the prime place to repeat his plans announced in May because of its rural location and proximity to alternative fuel resources such as soybeans and corn.
He wants to reduce gas prices by capping the state sales tax on gas and increasing money to research alternative fuels.
"I'd rather see energy production come from the soil of central Illinois than the sand fields of Saudi Arabia," Frerichs said.
If elected, he would pursue a bill limiting state sales tax on gas. For example, if a gallon of gas costs $3, the state could only tax $2.50. A percentage of this tax would go to the research
Republican state representative candidate Rex Bradford claimed in May that Frerichs' plan was copied from a local environmental forum.
Former state Sen. Judy Myers is the Republican candidate opposing Frerichs. The seat is held by Rick Winkel, R-Urbana, who is not seeking re-election. State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, has a proposal to suspend state sales tax on gasoline.
Myers spokesman Bill Cleeland said Frerichs should have supported Black's efforts as Myers has done.
"I'm a little puzzled why Mike waited until after the Legislature adjourned to talk about the need for gas tax relief," Cleeland said.
Black believes Frerichs used the opportunity of the gas hike as a campaign strategy.
"Where has he been?" Black questioned.
Black said prices at a Danville Speedway station jumped from $2.99 to $3.35 per gallon Thursday morning, then down to $2.99 by that afternoon.
"I have no idea why," Black said, adding the sudden increases made no sense. "The price of crude has not taken a big jump."