Gas pains especially acute at Pennsylvania pumps as summer travel soars

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — If you’ve been pumping, you’ve been paying.

“They’re ridiculously high,” Rachel Macavoy said while filling her tank outside Harrisburg. Leonard Brooks agrees. “They’re outrageous,” he said.

According to AAA, Pennsylvanians are paying on average $3.25 for a gallon of gasoline. That’s higher than all of its neighbors, tops in the northeast, and a whopping $.82 more per gallon than this time last year.

For Macavoy, it’s not joyriding. “I need it for work. I travel to meetings and things like that. The reimbursement rate we get doesn’t go up if the cost of gas goes up,” Macavoy said.

We are currently in the highest domestic travel season AAA has ever recorded. There’s no doubt pent-up demand to get away after 16 months of mostly staying home in quarantine.

“This summer is the cruelest summer for prices at the gas pump,” Central Pennsylvania AAA Spokeswoman, Doni Lee Speigel said. “Of course, the main reason is the high cost of crude right now.”

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It’s supply and demand and basic economics. But another reason for the high price in Pa. is its gasoline tax, among the nation’s highest. It is a fixed amount, set each December, to fund roads, bridges, and state police.

“The future of the gasoline tax is not bright,” State Rep. and Minority Chari of the House Transportation Committee Mike Carroll (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne) said. He also said fuel-efficient vehicles are taking a big bite out of gas-tax revenues and lawmakers are considering alternatives like paying by the mile, which are being implemented in the western US.

He calls it an aspirational goal to eliminate the gas tax altogether and replace it with user fees like the vehicle-miles-traveled model. “It’s a fee that’s established per mile and that fee is collected monthly or quarterly or annually as part of the vehicle registration process,” State Rep. Carroll said.

But whether it’s at the pump, or per mile, the piper must be paid. That leaves lots of us, like Leonard Brooks, felling over a barrel. “It is what it is,” Brooks said. “At the end of the day, you need gas so you have to pay for it. I would love for it to be cheaper like it used to be but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Experts at AAA anticipate that prices will drop when demand drops, at the end of the summer when kids go back to school.

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