The prices of everything from food to clothing to electricity have gone up amid the highest inflation rates in decades. But perhaps nothing quite captures the attention of consumers — and voters — like gas costs, which have shot up to record highs.

President Joe Biden has pledged to address inflation, while the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to try to cool down the economy and rein in prices, and candidates for office are trying to show they feel the pain.

Republicans see inflation as a winning issue in the midterm elections. In Pennsylvania, some Republican candidates for governor are proposing to cut the state’s gas tax. And the only three currently airing TV ads all have commercials in which they’re seen at the pump.

In the meantime, the presumptive Democratic nominee is pushing his own plan he says will lower costs for consumers, knowing full well that inflation could be a drag on his party in November.

Here’s what you need to know about where things stand:

The issue

Why is gas so expensive right now?

Regular gasoline cost an average of $4.32 per gallon Monday, according to AAA, compared with $3 a year ago.

Worldwide demand for oil rose in 2021 as economies revived after pandemic lockdowns in 2020. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent prices even higher amid uncertainty around Russian oil, which accounts for 10% of world supply.

How much is the federal gas tax?

The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and funds transportation infrastructure, such as highways, bridges, and mass transit.

It hasn’t been raised since 1993.

How much is the Pa. gas tax?

Pennsylvania levies a tax of 57.6 cents a gallon, among the highest in the country.

What does the tax pay for?

The liquid fuels tax is projected to generate more than $1.7 billion in revenue for the current fiscal year, according to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget. The vast majority goes to transportation infrastructure.

The state relies on gas tax-related sources for 75% of its transportation revenues, far more than comparable states, according to a report last year by a state commission. The tax has become a less dependable source of revenue as vehicles have become more fuel efficient and more people are buying electric cars.

It’s also the biggest single source of state funds for the Pennsylvania State Police.

Wolf, a Democrat whose second term ends in January, has called for a phasing out of the “burdensome” tax.

What is the gas tax holiday?

Wolf and four other Democratic governors this month urged Congress to suspend the federal gas tax through the end of the year. Proposed federal legislation would authorize the U.S. Department of Treasury to tap the general fund to make up for the shortfall.

“Money saved at the pump translates into dollars back in consumers’ pockets for groceries, childcare, rent, and more,” Wolf wrote in a joint letter to congressional leaders.

It remains to be seen whether Congress will take up the measure.

The plans

In Pennsylvania, some gubernatorial candidates are proposing a temporary gas tax reduction — which would use federal pandemic response money to help offset it.

For example, former Delaware County Councilman Dave White “would immediately suspend Pennsylvania’s gas tax, which he would pay for with unspent COVID relief funds,” a spokesperson said. “But in the long-term, the only way out of Joe Biden’s mess is to increase energy production here at home.”

Three of the candidates — Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre), State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin), and Attorney General Josh Shapiro — have put out specific proposals.

Jake Corman’s gas prices plan

Corman led a bipartisan group of senators that last week introduced legislation that would cut the state gas tax by one-third — about 20 cents per gallon – through the end of the year. He also supports a federal gas tax holiday.

Corman’s legislation would require PennDot to borrow $650 million to fund infrastructure projects to offset reduced gas tax revenues. It would also tap $500 million in federal relief dollars – from Biden’s American Rescue Plan – to fund state police operations.

Doug Mastriano’s gas prices plan

Mastriano also supports a temporary gas tax reduction. He introduced legislation last summer that would cut the tax by 15 cents for six months. The bill would allocate $240 million in federal pandemic relief aid to pay for roads and bridges, providing “some relief at the pumps without causing PennDot to go into debt,” Mastriano spokesperson Josh Herman said.

Herman said the bill “would not negatively impact the state police budget during the gas holiday period” because the federal funding would entirely make up the difference.

The bill would also require owners of electric and hybrid vehicles to pay registration fees of $250 and $175, respectively. That would generate $7 million based on 2020 data, Herman said, and increase over time as the cars rise in popularity.

Josh Shapiro’s gas prices plan

Shapiro, the only Democrat in the race, is taking a different approach. He proposes giving drivers $250 per registered vehicle, for up to four cars per household. The gas tax would remain unchanged. As with the Republicans, Shapiro would tap the American Rescue Plan to pay for the plan. There are about eight million registered passenger vehicles in Pennsylvania, so the program could cost $2 billion – though the campaign says some, like government-owned cars, wouldn’t be eligible.

Shapiro says he also wants to eliminate the “cell phone tax” — a tax on cell phone service that sends $317 million to the state’s general fund.

His plan would also expand a property tax and rent rebate program for seniors and disabled adults, increasing the maximum rebate from $650 to $1,000. Shapiro would make about 275,000 more people eligible for the program by raising the income eligibility cutoff to $30,000 a year for renters, double the current cutoff of $15,000, and $50,000 for homeowners, up from $35,000.

In addition to $2 billion in federal relief aid, Shapiro said the state’s budget surplus would help pay for his plan.

The politics

Bill McSwain challenges Jake Corman’s record

Corman drew criticism from GOP rival Bill McSwain, the former top federal prosecutor in the Philadelphia region, who called Corman’s plan “a transparent attempt to garner public favor by relieving taxpayers of the burdensome tax that he himself voted to enact.”

That’s a reference to Corman’s 2013 vote in favor of legislation that lifted a cap on a wholesale tax on gasoline and diesel – eventually raising the tax by almost 30 cents over five years.

That measure, signed into law by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, was the state’s biggest investment in transportation in decades.

“Corman has consistently voted to increase the tax burden on Pennsylvanians,” McSwain said this month.

McSwain said he wants a “permanent and drastic reduction of the gas tax,” though he hasn’t offered specifics or said how he’d pay for it. A spokesperson said McSwain will provide more details soon.

La Torre, Corman’s spokesperson, said: “Unlike Bill, Jake doesn’t just talk about what he’s going to do — he has a record of getting things done.”

Josh Shapiro criticizes Republicans’ gas tax cut proposals

Shapiro, who is running unopposed, is going after the Republicans ahead of the May 17 primary.

He says the GOP plans would “defund the state police” – using a phrase Republicans have used to label Democrats as soft on crime.

That’s because the state police rely on gas tax revenue – and the American Rescue Plan says pandemic relief aid cannot be used by states to cut taxes. (However, a federal judge in Alabama in November blocked the U.S. Treasury Department from enforcing the anti-tax cut provision, saying it violated state sovereignty.)

La Torre said the criticism was misplaced. “For two years, Josh Shapiro has stood by as the Democratic Party pushed for defunding the police and said nothing,” he said.

“It’s interesting that Josh’s plan also calls for using federal pandemic relief dollars but comes with a funding scheme that stretches all credibility,” said La Torre.

Shapiro also questioned whether oil and gas companies would pass on the savings from the gas tax reduction to consumers.

“While they’re working to put money in the pockets of oil and gas executives, I’m working to put money in the pockets of Pennsylvanians who right now are dealing with these high costs,” Shapiro said in Pittsburgh this month.