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Idaho pretax gas prices highest in Lower 48 states

Sun., Oct. 27, 2013, midnight

BOISE – Before taxes are factored in, Idaho motorists continue to pay higher prices for gasoline than their counterparts in the rest of the Lower 48 states, according to the latest data from AAA.

Premium prices for fuel are hardly a new development in the Gem State. According to AAA, Idaho’s average gas prices have consistently exceeded the national average since May.

Brett DeLange, head of the Consumer Protection Division at the Idaho attorney general’s office, said one reason for the higher fuel costs is the profit margins reported by retailers, notably those in Treasure Valley.

“It’s running over 30 cents a gallon, and that, to us, seems high,” DeLange told the Idaho Statesman in a story published Friday.

As of last week, DeLange said, “rack prices” – what retailers pay – were running below $3 per gallon in the Boise area. Pump prices for regular gas were around $3.75 a gallon in Boise a week ago and remained at that level Thursday. Prices did drop about 6 cents on Friday. Subtract the 25-cent Idaho state tax and the 18.4-cent federal tax, which retailers in every state must pay, and you get the profit margin.

When gas taxes, which are part of the pump price, are included, Idaho falls from No. 1 in the Lower 48 to No. 4, DeLange said. That’s because Idaho’s state tax is half the 49 to 53.5 cents paid in Connecticut, New York and California – the only states in the continental U.S. with higher pump prices than Idaho’s.

It’s not unusual for Idaho gas prices to outpace the national average, but it is unusual for Idaho to lead the way as early and long as it has in 2013, said Dave Carlson, who has been tracking Idaho gas prices for AAA since 1989.

Between March and August, while national prices were generally declining, Idaho’s prices kept increasing.

“They zigged, and we zagged,” Carlson said. “Conspiracy theorists will be saying something is amiss, but the big amiss thing is we are in an isolated area of the country that doesn’t get too much access.”

Idaho is the only Western state without an oil field or refinery.

The Consumer Protection Division closely monitors state gas prices and the office occasionally investigates costs. The last came in 2008.

“High prices in and of themselves are not a crime,” DeLange said. “Price-gouging is not a crime.”

What is illegal, he said, is price-fixing – when stations get together and set a price.


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