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More Memorial Day weekend drivers, but lower gas prices
Various state gasoline excise taxes, other fees, affect pump prices

More than 37 million Americans are expected to hit the roads this Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer and its associated vacation travel.

AAA says the number of people taking a trip this long holiday weekend is expected to be the most for the holiday since 2005. The bulk of them, around 33 million, will be hitting U.S. highways.

Family driving vacation fun postcard from Chelles Treasure via Pinterest

And while pump prices have surged in advance of the holiday -- the national average price of $2.71 for a gallon of unleaded gas is a nickel more than last week -- AAA says that price still is the lowest average for this date since 2009.

Shopping around can help drivers find gas stations with lower prices. You have to make sure, of course, that you don't waste those savings by driving too far to save a few cents per gallon.

States wrestle with transportation taxes: So what exactly, beyond oil company greed costs and refinery fees, determines the cost of fuel? Some of it is -- wait for it -- taxes.

In this case, however, it's the states that often add to the price, not Uncle Sam. The federal gas tax has been 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993 and that's not likely to change as the Senate works this getaway Friday to complete a deal that would extend (temporarily) funding for the Highway Trust Fund.

At the state level, though, there are many other ways to pay for roads and other infrastructure costs. Sometimes the proposals work. Sometimes they don't.

Michigan tried, and failed, to get voter approval for a sales tax increase that would have gone toward transportation. That same electoral result also played out a few months ago in Missouri.

The latest road-related financing move comes from Nebraska, where the state legislature recently overrode the governor's veto and enacted a state gas tax that will go up by six cents over four years. The gas tax increase is expected to raise more than $75 million a year once it is fully implemented and should help the Cornhusker State and its counties and cities address a multimillion-dollar backlog of road and bridge repair and construction.

State gas taxes and other fees: Nebraska lawmakers had some gas tax maneuverability. The state's gas tax is 25.6 cents per gallon and it hasn't been changed in 20 years.

Nebraska's overall gas charge of 44.9 cents per gallon is below the 48.85 cents per gallon nationwide average gasoline tax as noted in the American Petroleum Institute's latest quarterly (January-March 2015) analysis.

The API numbers includes both the federal gas tax and the state charges. In addition to excise taxes, many states collect sales taxes, gross receipts taxes, oil inspection fees, underground storage tank fees and other miscellaneous environmental fees on each gallon of gasoline.

The 10 states with the highest combined gasoline taxes are Pennsylvania with its levies totaling 70 cents per gallon (cpg), followed by California, New York, Hawaii, Connecticut, Washington, Florida, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Pennsylvania, however, doesn't assess a gas excise tax. All of its 51.6 cents per gallon charges come from other state taxes and fees.

State gasoline excise taxes only: When it comes to just state excise taxes on gasoline, the leader is Washington, with a 37.5 cpg tax.

The other states in the top 11 (we have some ties) of gas excise taxes are North Carolina and California, each charging 36 cpg; Rhode Island at 32 cpg; Iowa at 31 cpg; Wisconsin at 30.9 cpg; Maine and Oregon at 30 cpg each; Minnesota at 28.5 cpg; and South Dakota and Ohio at 28 cpg.

If your drive this holiday weekend is long, check out the various and sundry fuel tax charges for each state -- while you're a passenger, not behind the wheel!

Here's hoping your travels this weekend and year-round are safe, fun and low on fuel, taxable and otherwise, costs.

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