ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp is suspending Georgia’s motor fuel tax for six more weeks.
The Republican Kemp signed an executive order Thursday extending the tax break through July 14.
Kemp used the announcement to again blame Democratic President Joe Biden for high gas prices, although energy markets have mostly been roiled by demand that snapped back much faster from post-pandemic lows than expected.
“While President Biden continues to enforce an out-of-touch agenda with no shortage of damaging effects on everyday Americans, I’m going to respond to record-high inflation and continuing supply chain issues by empowering Georgians to keep their money in their own pockets while we keep goods flowing,” Kemp said in a statement.
Kemp signed a law in March that passed with broad bipartisan support suspending the state’s gas tax through May 31. But with pump prices climbing again, Kemp had signaled in recent days that he would extend the relief.
Under state law, Kemp can suspend taxes by executive order as long as state lawmakers ratify the action the next time they meet. Kemp abated gas taxes in 2021 during a pipeline shutdown, and former Gov. Nathan Deal suspended gas taxes multiple times.
Georgia’s gasoline price normally includes a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and a state tax of 29.1 cents per gallon. A number of cities and counties also charge taxes. Federal taxes on diesel fuel are 24.4 cents per gallon, while Georgia’s tax on diesel is 32.6 cents per gallon. The measure also abates Georgia’s taxes on aviation gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas and other fuels including compressed natural gas.
Those taxes normally collect about $150 million a month that Georgia uses to build and maintain roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. Kemp expects to make up the revenue from accumulated surplus or the state’s rainy day fund. Georgia had $1.25 billion left over after last year’s budget even after it decided to pay out $1.1 billion in one-time income tax refunds.
Kemp has been emphasizing his tax-cutting record as he runs for reelection. Besides the gas tax cut and the one-time income tax refunds, Kemp also signed a bill that will gradually cut Georgia state income taxes by $2 billion or more starting in 2024. He has attacked Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, claiming Abrams would raise taxes.
“We’re sending over a billion dollars back to you, back to you Georgia taxpayers, to help you deal with Biden’s 40-year high inflation,” Kemp said in his victory speech after Tuesday’s primary election when he beat David Perdue. “Stacey Abrams disagrees with this. She thinks state governments should keep more of your hard-earned tax dollars.”
Abrams has said in recent days that she can accomplish her agenda without raising taxes.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia has been advocating for the federal government to suspend collection of its gas tax.
“After consistently taking credit for our Democratic senators’ work in delivering resources to Georgians, Brian Kemp is now following the lead of Sen. Warnock, who has led the charge in working to lower gas prices,” said Jaylen Black, a spokesperson for the Abrams campaign.
The average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. on Thursday was $4.60, according to AAA. It was $4.14 in Georgia, fourth-lowest among the states. Oklahoma was lowest at $4.10
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.