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Gas use and tax collections hit five-year high in Wisconsin

Across the nation, drivers drove 20 billion fewer miles in April 2008 compared to April 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Apparently Wisconsinites aren't among those driving less.

Figures provided to The Wheeler Report ( ) from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue show that the amount of gasoline and diesel fuel sold in Wisconsin in May set a five-year mark for consumption.

"It surprises me because it is contrary to all the other data we are seeing," said Pam Moen, a spokeswoman for AAA Wisconsin.

Moen said that AAA doesn't track fuel consumption but does survey people's travel intentions for all major holidays.

"The Memorial Day survey we did showed that fewer people would be traveling on Memorial Day weekend, and with higher gas prices that is a trend we expect to continue," Moen said.

Moen suggested that because of the higher gas prices summer travelers from Wisconsin and neighboring states may be staying closer to home and vacationing here.

"That would certainly a good thing for Wisconsin," Moen said.

"But we are not hearing from any of the state's tourist destinations any increase in travelers compared to other years," she added.

More fuel being used also means more tax revenues.

Despite the May statewide average of $3.93 per gallon of gasoline and $4.74 per gallon of diesel fuel, reports filed with the DOR show more than 247.4 million gallons of gasoline and more than 68.9 million gallons of diesel fuel sold in May.

That brought in a total of more than $97.04 million in taxes.

Jessica Iverson, a DOR spokeswoman, says that DOR is looking to see what may have impacted the May numbers.

"Oftentimes, collection numbers may be different than what people expected for a variety of reasons, such as timing or the price of gas in neighboring states," Iverson said.

Iverson noted that companies that provide reports to DOR may be early or late in their reports for the month, which means some numbers may be from one month, but counted in another.

"I think what we'll find is a number of factors affecting this month," she added.

A year ago, the totals were 211.4 million gallons of gasoline and 44.5 million gallons of diesel fuel, and total tax collections of $82.2 million.

May 2008 gasoline sales were more than 50 million gallons higher than April 2008, and total tax collections were about $18 million higher.

Gasoline sold in May was the third highest total in the past five years (September 2005 - 259.95 million; July, 2005 - 256.4 million).

According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, on Wednesday the national average price of regular unleaded gasoline was $4.06 per gallon and in Wisconsin the average was $4.

A month ago those figures were $3.93 and $4, respectively.

A year ago, the national average was $2.99 and the Wisconsin average was $3.06.

Brady Bautch is a staff writer for the RiverTown Newspaper Group. Dick Wheeler operates The Wheeler Report.