Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.

Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Gas prices are shown on a gas pump in Hattiesburg, Miss., on the night of April 26, 2020. Around the country, prices plummeted during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP) Gas prices are shown on a gas pump in Hattiesburg, Miss., on the night of April 26, 2020. Around the country, prices plummeted during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP)

Gas prices are shown on a gas pump in Hattiesburg, Miss., on the night of April 26, 2020. Around the country, prices plummeted during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 7, 2020

Can’t blame governor for high Pennsylvania gas prices

If Your Time is short

  • A Facebook post blames Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf for high gasoline prices in Pennsylvania.

  • High gas taxes are one reason Pennsylvania’s gas prices are higher, but large increases result from a law that was adopted before he took office.

Across the country, lower gasoline prices — dipping to below $1 per gallon, in some places — have been one byproduct of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Pennsylvania is the exception, according to a Facebook post that blames Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. It says:

"Pennsylvania gasoline — $2.27/gallon. Ohio gasoline — 99 cents/gallon. Actually, 13 states under a dollar! Thanks Gov. Wolf!"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Even within a state, gas prices vary, of course. Leaving aside the precise cost of a gallon of regular unleaded on a given day, it’s fair to say that Pennsylvania’s gas prices are on the high end nationally. 

But gas taxes are only one reason gas prices vary among the states. And large gas tax hikes in Pennsylvania were done with a law that was enacted before Wolf was elected.

Pennsylvania gas prices higher

On May 2, the day of the Facebook post, the average price of regular gas in Pennsylvania was $2.03 per gallon, the American Automobile Association told PolitiFact. Forty states had averages of $1.99 or less.

That post was removed while we were preparing this fact-check. But the same image was posted by another Facebook user on May 4.)

On May 6, as we prepared this fact-check, the average price per gallon in Pennsylvania was $2.028 — ninth-highest in the country, according to AAA. Oklahoma was lowest, at $1.391.

In a comment to his post, the Facebook user cited an April 20 news article from a San Francisco TV station. That article cited a report three days earlier from GasBuddy.com, an app that tracks gas prices, that said gas prices were under $1 in 13 states:  Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Pennsylvania gas taxes higher

Pennsylvania’s total gas tax (state plus federal) is 77.1 cents per gallon. That is second only to California’s 79 cents, as of Jan. 1, 2020, according to the American Petroleum Institute. (The federal tax alone is 18.4 cents per gallon.)

Pennsylvania’s gas tax is more than twice as high as the tax in three of the other 13 states cited in the Facebook post (Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma). Here are the total gas taxes in those 13 states, in cents per gallon:

Featured Fact-check

Arkansas (43.2), Colorado (40.4), Iowa (48.9), Kansas (42.43), Kentucky (44.4), Michigan (60.38), Mississippi (37.19), Missouri (35.82), New York (63.43), Ohio (56.91), Oklahoma (38.4), Virginia (40.35) and Wisconsin (51.3).

Why Pennsylvania gas costs more

Asked why Pennsylvania’s prices at the pump are higher than in the other 13 states, Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told PolitiFact it’s generally because of the state’s higher gas tax. But there are also regional factors, he said.

Distance from supply, supply disruptions, and retail competition and operating costs all play a role, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a federal office.

Marc Stier, director of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, noted that states such as Arizona, which has one of the lowest gas taxes, and Nevada, which is roughly in the middle, have higher gas prices than Pennsylvania.

As of May 6, according to AAA, the average price per gallon was less than 1 cent higher in Arizona than in Pennsylvania, but more than 30 cents higher in Nevada.

The governor’s role

When we asked Wolf’s office about the Facebook post, we were referred to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. A spokesman responded by citing a 2013 Pennsylvania law that raised money for transportation. 

That law was signed by Wolf’s predecessor, Republican Tom Corbett. It resulted in a series of increases in the state’s portion of the gas — from 32.3 cents per gallon to 58.7 cents. 

Stier said he is not aware of any attempts by Wolf, who took office in 2015, to reduce gas taxes. 

Wolf has defended the 2013 tax law as a mechanism to improve aging roads and bridges. In 2017, he and the Republican-controlled legislature allowed another increase from the 2013 law to take effect.

Our ruling

A Facebook post blamed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf for gas prices in Pennsylvania being higher than in 13 other states, where prices had dropped recently to lower than $1 per gallon in some places, while prices in Pennsylvania were above $2

A recent survey found gas prices under $1 in 13 states. 

Pennsylvania has the second-highest gas tax in the nation and gas taxes are a major reason why gas is more expensive in Pennsylvania.

But large increases in Pennsylvania’s gas tax took place under a law that was adopted before Wolf was elected. And there are other reasons — distance from supply, supply disruptions, and retail competition and operating costs — that cause gas prices to vary by region.

We rate the Facebook post Mostly False.

Our Sources

Facebook, post, May 2, 2020 (Post removed)

Facebook, post, May 4, 2020

Email, American Automobile Association spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano, May 6, 2020

Email, Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, May 6, 2020

American Automobile Association, "State Gas Price Averages," May 6, 2020

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Why is Pennsylvania's gas tax so high? We've got a lot of roads," Aug. 5, 2019

American Petroleum Institute, "State Motor Fuel Taxes," Jan. 1, 2020

Email, American Petroleum Institute spokesman Scott Lauermann, May 6, 2020

Associated Press, "Corbett signs $2.3 billion Pa. transportation bill," posted Nov. 25, 2013, updated Jan 05, 2019

Email, Marc Stier, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, May 6, 2020

ABC7news.com, "Gas Prices Fall To Under $1 In 13 States As Demand Drops During Pandemic," April 20, 2020

GasBuddy.com, "These Six States Are Seeing Lowest Gas Prices In Over A Decade," April 17, 2020

WHYY-TV, "Tracking the tax increases and decreases in Gov. Tom Wolf’s first term," Jan. 14, 2019

Email, Jeffrey Johnson, communications director, Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, May 5, 2020

Email, Emily Roderick, press assistant, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, May 5, 2020

U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Why are gasoline prices higher in some regions?," Jan. 10, 2020

Meadville Tribune "Gov. Wolf: Gas tax paying for more than $200M worth of local road, bridge projects," May 26, 2017

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Can’t blame governor for high Pennsylvania gas prices

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up