Walz calls for gas tax holiday amid surging prices; Biden bans Russian oil

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he is banning imports of Russian oil and gas, striking back at Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Biden cautioned that the move will send gas prices - which have already soared by 60 cents a gallon over the past month - even higher. The average price of a gallon of gas in Minnesota is now $3.87, though some stations are already topping $4.

"I said defending freedom will have a cost," the president said during a speech at the White House. "It's going to cost us as well in the United States."

The ban closes a major loophole in the U.S.'s original sanctions against Russia, which did not touch Russian oil and allowed foreign money to keep flowing into Moscow. Lawmakers in both parties had pressured Biden to take the step as a means of striking the Russian economy. The U.S. gets a fraction of its oil and gas from Russia.

The decision had an immediate impact in state capitals across the country where policymakers fear political liability for rising gas prices but gave few options to reduce them. Specifically, it renewed attention on one of the few levels that policymakers can pull: gas taxes.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz joined five other Democratic governors in calling on Congress to suspend the federal 18-cent per gallon gas tax for the rest of the year.

Asked by reporters at the state Capitol, Walz said he was "open" to a gas tax holiday in Minnesota to wipe away the state's 28-cent per gallon tax from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Walz said doing so would cost the state's road fund $77 million a month.

"I am open to that," Walz said. "I think you target that, especially where it’s hurting folks the worst, maybe the summer driving season."

A gas tax holiday proposal from six House Democrats has received a chilly reception in the Legislature so far. Republicans derided it as a "gimmick" and the DFL-controlled House blocked it from coming up for a vote on Monday.