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Gas tax rising in Georgia, adding to already high prices

ATLANTA — Georgia drivers already paying record-high prices at the pump will have to dig even deeper into their wallets beginning Friday when the state’s sales tax is set to rise 2.1 cents a gallon.
    The jump is driven by state law which automatically adjusts the motor fuel sales tax when the price rises or dips 25 percent from a preset average. The state sales tax will rise from 15.2 cents a gallon to 17.3 cents.
    And it’s likely to climb again July 1, when the state is scheduled to do its regular twice-yearly recalculation of the tax.
    The average price of gasoline in Georgia reached $3.116 on May 23, the highest recorded in Georgia history, according to daily tracking report from AAA.
    AAA spokesman Gregg Laskoski said he did not know of any other states where the gasoline sales tax is being boosted amid the current high prices. Most states have a flat tax that keeps rates fairly steady, he said.
    ‘‘As far as we can tell, Georgia is fairly unique,’’ Laskoski said.
    ‘‘The states considering any type of adjustments are trying to reduce the taxes that consumers pay when they buy gasoline.’’
    In 2005, Gov. Sonny Perdue rolled back Georgia’s gasoline tax for one month in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to combat soaring gas prices. He didn’t rule out doing so again.
    ‘‘We don’t believe it is right for the state to reap a windfall like this from the taxpayers,’’ Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan said. ‘‘In the past, Governor Perdue has found ways to return excess tax revenue to the taxpayers and that is a principle that will guide him this year as well.’’
    But aides said it’s not as simple as it sounds.
    Perdue summoned lawmakers back to Atlanta in 2005 to roll back the sales tax and his staff says he would have to do so again. Perdue’s legal advisers say while the governor can stop collecting the gasoline tax he cannot reinstate it without the state Legislature’s approval.
    The Legislature is not scheduled to return until January.
    The state Department of Revenue recalculates part of the state sales tax on gasoline every six months based on the average price throughout the state. When that average rises, the tax does too.
    Beginning Friday, the price of gasoline in Georgia will include 17.3 cents in state tax taxes, 18.4 cents in federal taxes and a local tax that varies from county to county, state Department of Revenue officials said.
    The average price of gasoline in Georgia is now $3.068 a gallon, according to AAA.
    At that rate a driver pays $56.76 to fill an 18.5 gallon fuel tank, like the one in a Toyota Camry. Of that, state taxes account for $3.20 and federal taxes $3.40.
    Industry analysts say fuel prices have started to decline nationally after the Memorial Day holiday but remain well above average.
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    Georgia Department of Revenue: http://www.etax.dor.ga.gov/
    AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report: http://www.fuelgaugereport.com

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