Two months ago, DOR published a blog post noting that price spikes in gasoline had not caused a decline in consumption. That remains true today after reviewing gasoline excise tax collections for March and April.
The two months' combined collection is $96.8 million, which is $200,000 more than the same two months a year ago. Through the end of April, year-to-date gas tax collection is at $493 million. up $6.4 million from a year ago.
It is fair to say, however, that the rate of increase in gas consumption, as measured by gasoline tax collection, has slowed down. In the first six months of FY11, collections were up $5 million. In the ensuing four months (January-April of 2011) which correspond to the period in which gasoline prices have gone up, the increase over a year ago is just a little over $1 million.
Those interested in pouring over these numbers should visit DOR's Blue Book, published monthly, to review individual month and year-to-date collections of a variety of tax collections and other revenue sources. (The April edition should be up in a few days.)
This is probably a good time to review how gas tax revenues are used. As a result of reform of the state's transportation system in 2009, gasoline excise tax revenue goes into the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, along with registry fees and .385 percent of the sales tax. The fund is used to pay debt service associated with highway maintenance and construction projects and provides funding for the operation of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).
Revenue from the gasoline tax, which is 21-cents per gallon, goes almost entirely (99.85 percent) into the Commonwealth Transportation Fund. The balance of fifteen-hundreths of one percent is credited to the Inland Fish and Game Fund.
One of the best explainers of the new MassDOT and its funding sources appeared in Gov. Patrick's FY11 budget proposal.
The state gasoline tax of 21-cents per gallon is not the only tax paid at the pump. The state also collects 2.5-cents per gallon to help fund the cleanup of underground storage tanks; this money goes into the state's General Fund from which the Legislature makes appropriations to pay for cleanups. And the federal government collects a federal gas tax of 18.4-cents per gallon.
The Tax Foundation publishes annually a ranking of gasoline taxes by state. Massachusetts is ranked 27th from the top out of the 50 states.