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Memorial Day gasoline prices down, but state gas taxes were up a bit in April

The arrival of the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, means it's time for my annual post on gasoline taxes.

Yes, I am that predictable. But it's a long holiday weekend and none of us wants to do any heavy lifting, right? So let's hit the blogging road.

AAA projects that 34.8 million Americans plan to travel 50 miles or more between Thursday, May 24 and Monday, May 28. That's 1.2 percent more travelers than last year.

And most of them will be on the road.

AAA says about 30.7 million people will drive to their Memorial Day weekend destination, up from 30.3 million people who drove last year.

Part of the reason for the increased highway congestion is lower gasoline prices. The average price of gas is down 14 cents a gallon from this time last year, and a quarter since the end of March.

The tax effect: Gasoline taxes, however, were up a tad earlier this year.

The American Petroleum Institute says that the nationwide average tax on gasoline of in April, the latest month for which data is available, was 49.5 cents per gallon (cpg), up 0.7 cents cpg from the industry trade association's January study.

The federal excise tax on gasoline isn't the reason. It's been stalled for years at 18.4 cents per gallon.

And the average state gasoline excise tax in April was 20.9 cpg, unchanged from January.

But other taxes, such as applicable sales taxes, gross receipts taxes, oil inspection fees, county and local taxes, underground storage tank fees and other miscellaneous environmental fees, did tick up, accounting for the overall April tax increase.

Adding in those assorted levies produced a volume-weighted average state and local tax of 31.1 cents per gallon of gasoline.

The 10 states with the highest combined gasoline taxes in April were:

Gasoline motor fuel taxes API April 2012 top ten Click the image for the API summary; complete graphic is on page 2.

The graph's green bar represents the federal excise tax. The states' excise tax amounts are in blue. The red is for other applicable state and local taxes.

Comparing #1 & #10 gas taxes: The top 10 gasoline tax list is book ended by two states with relatively low state excise taxes on the fuel.

Number one New York collects 8 cpg in excise taxes on gas. Number 10 Florida's gasoline excise tax is 4 cpg.

But both collect a lot of other taxes and fuel fees.

Florida's extra 31 cpg comes from the state's sales tax and "other" taxes, such as county and option taxes, the State Comprehensive Enhanced Transportation System tax and various state environmental import taxes.

If you head north from the Sunshine State up I-95, you'll find New York collects an extra 43.2 on each gallon of gasoline.

The Empire State added levies are from its petroleum business tax, a petroleum testing fee and, of course, state and local sales taxes.

I know you really don't care about the breakdown of your per gallon cost when you roll into a gas station on fumes. But if you are traveling further than the 50 miles that the AAA predicts this weekend, you might be able to buy gas in another state.

And that state's fuel and other tax policies might give you a full tank for a few less bucks.

Gas Buddy and Mapquest can help you out on your fuel-saving quest. Happy, safe and economical motoring!

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