Now here’s something you’d never expect! Georgia, in the heart of Tea Party country, is the state where it’s most expensive to operate a motor vehicle. And why is that? According to Claes Bell, senior analyst at Bankrate.com, it’s because Georgia “basically has higher taxes and fees for drivers than any other state.”
Let me get this straight. The Georgia Tea Party says it “is focused on fiscal responsibility, limited government and free markets. Taxation and spending issues will remain at the forefront of our activities.” Georgia is “about as red as they come,” says the Christian Science Monitor, and has had some of the biggest Tea Party rallies. And yet the state, which could elect a U.S. senator who calls evolution “a lie from the pit of hell,” burdens some of its poorest driving citizens with big huge fees. “It wouldn’t seem to be progressive tax policy,” said Bell.
Georgians, especially in the greater Atlanta area (above), have long commutes (36.6 minutes if you live in zipcode 30315), so that adds to their driving costs as calculated by Bankrate. Gasoline costs are middle of the pack there. It’s mostly about taxes and fees. Taxes alone in Georgia are an average $1,129 annually. My guess is this: Governments have to fund their operations somehow, and taxes on income and homes are much more visible—and more likely to send up a Tea Party war cry—than fees levied on motor vehicles.
Register a car in Georgia, and it’s going to cost you an average of $4,233 to keep it on the road for a year. Do the same thing in Oregon, with low taxes and fees, gasoline and insurance costs, and it will set you back only $2,204. That’s just a little more than half as much. Oregon! A nest of tax-and-spend liberals if ever there was one. If they see something moving, they slap a new tax on it, right? Wrong, evidently. Annual taxes in Oregon are just $157.
“Auto-related taxes and fees are actually very, very low in Oregon,” Bell said, “the lowest in our survey overall.” The average Beaver State resident drives 16 percent fewer miles than the national average, so that helps the bottom line also.
Other states with high taxes and fees for motorists include redder-than-red Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, Missouri (which only elects Democrats when Republicans make really dumb mistakes), and Kentucky.
Blue states with relatively low tax burdens on drivers include Hawaii, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Incidentally, if you look at the cost of car ownership over five years, as the New York Times did in 2008, the results are a bit different. The biggest ownership costs were in Hawaii, which makes sense because cars have to be imported to there, and gas is exorbitant. Five years of car ownership in Hawaii will set you back $59,457, at least in 2008. Georgia rated fairly well in that survey, but was right next to, gulp, tax-and-spend Massachusetts.
You have to go beyond the rhetoric and see what really happens on the ground. In Georgia, tax and spending seems to be OK, as long as it’s long-suffering commuters who pay the bill. On video, here's what commuting in Atlanta looks like (though you won't always see burning trucks):
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