In the first quarter of this year, state governments across the country collected $189,761,000,000 in taxes of all kinds, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

Add in local taxes, and we 312.8 million Americans paid $325,285,000,000 in the first quarter of 2012. Oodles more in federal taxes.

Collectively, Americans paid $4.7 billion more in state and local taxes in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.

No one likes to pay taxes, but the increase means, if we subtract fractional increases in sales taxes and “fees,” that generally speaking, we bought more taxable retail items and applied for more fee-based licenses early this year than in early 2011. That’s good.

We paid more in property taxes, too, a combination of higher property taxes and increased sales. So, while it’s not good that property taxes are on the rise, it’s good to see home sales trending upward.

Mainers are doing our share to boost revenue.

Let’s do a little comparison with, say, equally populous New Hampshire.

In the first quarter of this year, 1.3 million Mainers paid $763.6 million in state taxes. The same number of folks in New Hampshire paid $811.5 million. Not exactly the reputed tax-free living that state claims, especially when it comes to property taxes.

Nearly half of all state taxes paid in New Hampshire are in property taxes. In Maine, the state’s biggest tax-revenue producers are general sales taxes and individual income taxes, which we’ve long known.

Mainers pay, when compared to New Hampshire, far more in sales tax on fuel: $55.7 million in Maine and $35 million in New Hampshire in the first quarter. If we extrapolate out for the year, we Mainers will pay $83.3 million more in taxes when buying fuel this year than our neighbors.

New Hampshire takes better care of its roads, but then, it’s a much smaller state with many fewer roads, so that’s probably not a fair comparison.

Let’s look at alcohol.

In Maine, in the first quarter of 2012, we paid $3.6 million in taxes on alcohol. We did?

That’s $3.40 for every adult Mainer in the first three months of the year, and less than general corporate taxes paid during the same time. It’s also just a little less than the amount paid in Oregon, a state with three times the population of Maine.

Folks in New Hampshire also paid less — $2.7 million — which probably includes many Mainers crossing the border for less expensive spirits.

When it comes to tobacco products, Mainers paid less in taxes in the first quarter than people in New Hampshire, $32 million compared to $46 million.

We also spent much, much less on insurance-related taxes, $22.5 million to New Hampshire’s $73 million.

And, despite what we consider to be high utility bills, we paid $5.5 million in utility taxes, compared to New Hampshire’s $21.3 million.

We have steeper “amusement” taxes than New Hampshire does, or so the revenue indicates. In the first quarter of 2012, we spent $6.6 million on taxes for amusements. The good people living in New Hampshire spent $90,000, which is either less expensive amusements or just plain less amusement.

We spent less in motor vehicle taxes: $25.6 million in the first quarter compared to New Hampshire’s $33.7 million, and we paid much more in hunting and fishing license fees: $3.8 million in Maine compared to $1.8 million in New Hampshire.

When it comes to occupation and business licenses, Mainers paid fewer fees; $34 million, compared to $42 million in New Hampshire.

It’s the personal income taxes that really kick us when compared to New Hampshire.

In January, February and March, we paid $247 million; in New Hampshire, residents paid $15 million. We also paid $11 million in so-called “death” and gift taxes. In New Hampshire? Zero dollars.

The bottom line, though? We Mainers paid fewer state taxes than our bordering neighbors during the first part of this year. And, interestingly enough, based on U.S. Census figures (which do not include local and federal taxes), we paid fewer state taxes than any other New England state during the same time.

In fact, in lots of census-tracked categories we pay fewer taxes per capita than other Americans. We pay plenty more in differing categories, but this rally cry that we’re the most taxed state in the country deserves more scrutiny than any sound bite can carry.

So, beware those bites in the coming campaign season.

Get the facts. Go to: http://www.census.gov/govs/qtax/.

[email protected]

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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