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PORTLAND (AP) -- Oregon's gasoline tax rose last weekend by six cents a gallon, an increase that showed up quickly in pump prices that have already topped $3 a gallon.

Gasoline prices in Oregon have been rising steadily for two years, according to figures from AAA of Oregon's weekly survey.

Dealers, who pay the tax, won't take long to pass along the increase, said AAA spokeswoman Marie Dodds.

'That's not something they'll want to eat, six cents a gallon," she said.

Assuming that's the case, the tax increase would cost an Oregon driver using 522 gallons a year more than $31.

Gasoline prices generally reflect those of oil and often the direction of the economy. Forecasters say improving economies in the United States and worldwide will probably pressure prices upward this year.

The AAA statistics show gasoline in Oregon at nearly $4.30 a gallon in mid-2008. But as the Great Recession took hold, the price fell sharply and bottomed out at less than $1.75 during the holiday season that year.

The tax increase effective with the beginning of 2011 makes total levy on gasoline 30 cents a gallon. That's up by 29 cents since 1919 when Oregon became the first state in the nation to impose a gasoline tax.

The most recent increase came in 1993, when the tax was set at 24 cents a gallon.

The six-cent increase was part of a tax-and-fee package the Legislature said would raise $300 million a year for road work. The state gets half, and cities and counties get half.

Drivers have already been nicked. In October 2009, according to the state Transportation Department, title fees went up by $22, to $77, for example. Two-year registration for passenger vehicles rose $32, to $86.

The tax increase is the latest in a series of efforts in recent years to fix and build Oregon's transportation system.

In his first term, Gov. Ted Kulongoski won approval of a $1 billion package to repair and replace bridges over a decade. The effort is 'on time and on budget," and the last projects are due to end in 2012, said Transportation Department spokesman Dave Thompson.

The Obama administration's stimulus program fed $242 million in highway money to Oregon, and the work resulting from that is winding up, Thompson said.

The Legislature, in each of the last three sessions, has approved $100 million in spending for aviation, freight rail, marine and mass transit projects.

Oregon's per-capita spending on highways appears to be rising, in comparison with other states, and the tax increase probably will continue that trend.

Studies cited by a staff member at the National Conference of State Legislatures show the state 30th among the states in 2004 and 20th in 2008.

'It's been a fairly rare circumstance in the last couple of years to raise the gasoline tax," said Jim Reed, transportation program manager for the organization.

In Oregon, majority Democrats and a number of Republicans backed the tax increase, which passed handily in the 2009 session.

They said inflation had eroded the purchasing power of gasoline tax revenues, a backlog of road work had built up, and the revenue would support 4,000 construction jobs a year. They also specified projects in the bill to ensure the money was spread broadly across the state.

Even gasoline dealers backed the bill, said their lobbyist, Paul Romain, because it pre-empted local gasoline tax increases. Dealers fight local levies because they put dealers inside the taxing city or county at a competitive disadvantage to those nearby but outside the district.

A petition drive earlier this year to put the package to a statewide vote fell short.


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