ATLANTA (AP) — People in Georgia will keep paying no state taxes on gasoline and diesel, at least until state lawmakers start a special legislative session.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday extended the fuel tax rollback of 31.2 cents per gallon of gasoline and 35 cents per gallon of diesel until Nov. 29.
Georgia’s governor can suspend the collection of taxes during an emergency as long as state lawmakers approve it the next time they meet. That next session had been scheduled for Jan. 8, but will now be Nov. 29. That's when Kemp called a special session to redraw Georgia's congressional and state legislative districts after a federal judge ruled some districts illegally diluted voting power of Black people.
It's unclear if Kemp will ask lawmakers to extend the tax break by law during their special session. He could also declare another state of emergency after lawmakers leave and resume waiving taxes until January. Spokesperson Garrison Douglas said he had no information about what Kemp would request.
Kemp in September revived what was a campaign tactic during his reelection bid in 2022, when he signed a law suspending the gas tax with broad bipartisan support. Kemp signed seven separate extensions after that, with the state forgoing an estimated $1.7 billion in revenue from March 2022 to January 2023.
The second-term governor began waiving the taxes again in September when he issued a novel legal declaration finding that high prices were such an emergency. The 2022 suspensions came under a state of emergency related to COVID-19.
Kemp says tax relief for Georgians helps them deal with inflation that he blames on Democratic President Joe Biden, although most economists say giving consumers more money typically increases inflation as well.
“Thanks to our responsible approach to budgeting, we’re able to deliver relief to families fighting through the disastrous effects of Bidenomics,” Kemp said in a statement. “I’m proud this action has helped keep millions of dollars in hardworking Georgians’ pockets and look forward to continuing to see that impact with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching."
The governor has been rolling back fuel taxes worth about $180 million a month at the same time that his administration has been emphasizing that tax collections are declining, a sign that Georgia's economy may be slowing. Tax revenues fell about 3% in October even though some fuel taxes were still flowing into state coffers after Kemp's September action. Fuel taxes in Georgia largely fund roadbuilding.
Despite revenue declines, the state remains on track to run another surplus this year, unless the economy declines more sharply or Kemp and lawmakers ramp up tax givebacks. That's because Kemp set the ceiling on state spending more than $5 billion below the $37.7 billion that the state collected last year
Beyond that, Georgia's rainy day account is full and the state has $11 billion in additional surplus cash in the bank.
On Tuesday, Georgia drivers were paying an average of $2.89 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline, according to motorist group AAA. That was the second-lowest lowest price among the states behind Texas, and down 68 cents since Kemp suspended the taxes. The national average of $3.41 has decreased 43 cents per gallon in the same time.
Pump prices also include a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel.