State Watch

Democratic governors call for gas tax suspension

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Six Democratic governors have asked congressional leaders to suspend the federal gas tax as fuel prices spike to unprecedented highs amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the governors say they support a bill introduced by three Michigan Democrats to suspend the gas tax for the remainder of the year.

“Money saved at the pump translates into dollars back in consumers’ pockets for groceries, childcare, rent, and more,” the governors — Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, Minnesota’s Tim Walz, Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf, Colorado’s Jared Polis, New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham and Wisconsin’s Tony Evers — wrote to congressional leaders.

The federal government charges an excise tax of 18.4 cents per gallon. It has not been increased since 1993.

The national average price of a gallon of gas on Wednesday stood at $4.252, according to AAA, up five cents from Tuesday and up almost 80 cents from just a month ago. Last year, the average price stood at $2.796.

The bill they support, sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Michigan Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Dan Kildee, would replace revenue in the Highway Trust Fund that the federal government would forgo by suspending the tax. The governors also pointed to $118 billion allocated to the trust fund by the infrastructure bill President Biden signed last year as evidence that the fund would not run low on money any time soon.

Five of the governors — Whitmer, Walz, Polis, Lujan Grisham and Evers — are up for reelection this year. Wolf, serving the end of his second term in office, cannot run again because of term limits.

Democrats have felt rising anxiety of late as gas prices have risen to record highs, both because of increased demand and because of the conflict in Ukraine. Biden on Tuesday said the United States would suspend purchases of Russian oil; though Russia contributes only a small fraction of the oil imported in a given week, the suspension is likely to further roil international markets and send prices higher.

In remarks at the White House on Tuesday, Biden acknowledged that the war in Ukraine had already taken a toll on the budgets of American families.

“The decision today is not without cost here at home. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war is already hurting American families at the gas pump,” Biden said. “I’m going to do everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home.”

The Biden administration has already authorized the release of 30 million barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Allied nations have said they will release another 30 million barrels, though all told those releases will cover just about two weeks of Russian exports.

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Colorado Dan Kildee Debbie Stabenow Elissa Slotkin gas prices Gas Tax Gretchen Whitmer Jared Polis Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Michelle Lujan Grisham Michigan Minnesota Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi New Mexico Pennsylvania Tim Walz Tom Wolf Tony Evers Wisconsin

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