Fact check: False claim that Coloradans will see a 54-cent gas increase starting in January

·7 min read

The claim: Coloradans will pay 54 cents more per gallon of gas starting in 2023

Gas prices have receded from the historic high reached this summer, but some social media users are claiming residents of one state will soon face more steep gas prices.

“How many of you know that starting January 1st, 2023. The People of Colorado will be paying $.54 a gallon more for gas all thanks to Jared Polis!,” reads part of a Aug. 27 Facebook post that was shared more than 300 times in one week.

It goes on to claim that Polis, the governor of Colorado, planned to enact a ban on the sale of gasoline-powered cars after 2035 and that inflation is 5 percent higher in the state than in the rest of the country.

In response to USA TODAY's request for comment, the user said Polis had failed to apply for an exemption from a federal fuel tax scheduled to go into effect next year.

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But neither federal nor state fuel taxes are expected to increase to that figure in January. The Internal Revenue Service said the current federal fuel tax rate of 18.4 cents per gallon is in effect until 2028, and a statewide road usage fee going into effect on April 1 will increase the cost of gas by 2 cents per gallon.

Prices per gallon are displayed over labels of various grades of gasoline at a Shell station Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Littleton, Colo.
Prices per gallon are displayed over labels of various grades of gasoline at a Shell station Thursday, June 9, 2022, in Littleton, Colo.

Federal gas tax not set to change in January

Internal Revenue Service spokesperson Bruce Friedland told USA TODAY the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal excise tax on gasoline is in effect until Sept. 30, 2028.

The current rate is made up of a 18-cent gasoline tax and a one-cent tax for the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund. It hasn't been raised since 1993.

Once 2028 comes around, Friedland said the gasoline tax would drop to 4.3 cents per gallon without a trust fund tax.

Contrary to the post's claim that the governor is seeking to raise gas prices, Polis is one of several Democratic governors who called for the federal gas tax to be temporarily suspended earlier this year, according to Colorado Newsline. President Joe Biden also advocated for a three-month federal gas tax holiday but the calls ultimately went unheeded by Congress.

State's per-gallon gas fee set to go into effect in April

A 54-cent gasoline fee isn't expected on the state level, either.

Dan Carr, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Revenue, told USA TODAY he had "not heard of (a) $0.54-per-gallon increase."

Carr said the current gasoline fuel tax is 22 cents per gallon, which will become 24 cents per gallon once a road usage fee starts in April 2023.

Polis signed legislation in June 2021 that imposed a 2-cent-per-gallon road usage fee and an additional 22 cents per gallon bridge and tunnel impact fee on certain special fuels.

Both fees were supposed to go into effect on July 1, 2022, but were later delayed until April 2023.

The fees will increase annually by one cent for the next six fiscal years. They'll be at 8 cents each by July 2028 and remain there through the 2031-2032 fiscal year, at which point they'll be adjusted for inflation.

More: Gas prices drop under $4 nationwide for first time in months. Will they continue to fall?

There is no mention of any fuel tax set to go into effect in January on the fuel fees schedule found on the Colorado Department of Revenue's website.

EPA designation may increase gas prices in the future

Both Polis’ deputy press secretary Katie Jones and Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson Timothy Carroll told USA TODAY there is “no validity" to the Facebook post's claims.

The agency reclassified Denver and other parts of Colorado as "severe" air quality violators in September, according to The Denver Post. Carroll said the designation comes with Clean Air Act requirements to sell reformulated gasoline, which is new for the Denver area.

The requirement won't go into effect for consumers or wholesale purchasers until June 1, 2024. The Denver Post and other outlets reported the change could impact gas prices, but Carroll said the amount mentioned in the Facebook post is not accurate.

"There is no mandated fuel tax associated with an RFG requirement and EPA has no evidence to support the $0.54 per gallon estimate," Carroll said.

Polis threatened legal action to avoid the requirement and wrote in a statement that "an increase in price of any amount is too great."

Polis hasn't implemented ban on gasoline-powered vehicles

California recently moved to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in 2035, but Jones said there is "no validity to the claim that the Governor would support a ban on internal combustion engine vehicles."

Previously, Polis signed an executive order "supporting a transition to zero emission vehicles" and a draft plan to reduce greenhouse gas pollution that included a call for “close to 100%” of vehicles to be electric by 2050.

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But Jones said Polis' goal is "increasing choice for consumers, not decreasing choice."

The Colorado Energy Office offered a similar statement to The Associated Press in September.

“While the governor shares the goal of rapidly moving towards electric vehicles, he is skeptical about requiring 100% of cars sold to be electric by a certain date as technology is rapidly changing,” the office told the outlet.

Inflation rates show higher costs in Colorado, but not a 5-percent difference between the state and the rest of the country. A July report by the Joint Economic Committee Republicans noted that the country saw a 13.3 percent increase in prices between January 2021 and June 2022. Colorado's rate was listed as 14.9 percent.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Coloradans will pay 54 cents more per gallon of gas starting in 2023. The IRS said the current federal fuel tax rate of 18.4 cents per gallon is in effect until 2028, and a statewide road usage fee going into effect in April will increase the cost of gas by 2 cents per gallon. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim of 54-cent gas tax starting in Colorado