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Gas pains

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Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The significant increase in Pittsburgh-area gasoline prices this year proves that PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch's claim that the state's wholesale gasoline tax hike wouldn't necessarily be passed on to consumers was a disingenuous pretext to win passage of the $2.3 billion transportation-funding package.

But added pain at the pump has only just begun.

Confirming that the 9.5-cent tax hike is to blame are pump prices rising by about the same amount and a lack of similar hikes in neighboring states; a Ross petroleum distributor says “any tax or fee whatsoever is going to pass through.”

Expect much the same this time next year as Pennsylvania continues to gradually lift its wholesale gas-tax cap. And expect the federal government, facing an approximately $20 billion shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund that provides about half of states' transportation funding, to inflict even more pump pain.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., wants to nearly double the federal retail gas tax to 33.4 cents per gallon. And Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has proposed a wholesale-level federal fuel tax that would be passed on to consumers, just like Pennsylvania's wholesale tax hike.

Pennsylvanians thus face a double or even triple gasoline-tax whammy, the further draining of their wallets and an even slower economic recovery.

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