By Caroline Cummings

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday vowed stemming inflation is a “top domestic priority,” as gas prices rise to new heights and Americans are paying more for food and other goods.

“I know that families all across America are hurting because of inflation,” Biden said during a speech.

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He acknowledged how it is impacting family budgets, but it’s also a political liability heading into the midterm elections this fall. A recent CBS News poll shows pocketbook issues like the economy and inflation are the top priorities for a majority of Americans.

In Minnesota, families are feeling pain at the pump and at the grocery store. Consumer prices in the Twin Cities rose 8.2% over last year, according to March data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Residents saw food prices soar by 7.9% and energy increase dramatically by 30.9% compared to the previous year. April data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics should be released Wednesday.

The latest information from AAA published Tuesday shows Minnesota gas is 30-cents cheaper at $4.07 per gallon than the national average of $4.37 per gallon, which is the highest on record.

(credit: CBS)

For St. Paul resident Roiae Bennett and her family, inflation impacts the shopping list. They’re thinking more about what they buy at the grocery store.

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“It makes it really difficult when we’re already struggling due to the pandemic,” Bennett said. “It’s either-or kind of. Like, I had to go with something cheaper, and that cheaper stuff is even higher now.”

Rich Tuomi, also of St. Paul, is on a fixed retirement income. He said he is thankful to have some money saved to weather the worst of the price hikes, but he is changing how he shops.

“Cut corners, shop a little more at Costco where you do bulk items, and just simply you can parcel out and put away, save,” Tuomi said. “Not much you can do. You live with it.”

These are the types of decisions many families are making to cope with inflation, said Mark Bergen, the James D. Watkins Chair in Marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. Combatting gas prices is harder if people can’t change their driving habits, but with food there are more options like substitute products that are cheaper.

He said that kind of daily response to inflation is a normal — for now.

“It’s appropriate to be thinking that inflation is something they’ll be grappling with through the summer and, you know, throughout the coming year,” Bergen said.

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At the Minnesota Capitol, House Democrats pitched a gas tax holiday this summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day to save Minnesotans more than 28-cents per gallon. But the bill has stalled in the legislature and it’s unclear if it will pass before session ends in a few weeks.

Caroline Cummings