ATLANTA — Georgia drivers are likely to begin paying higher prices for gasoline and diesel as state motor fuel taxes return on Thursday.
Gov. Brian Kemp's rollback of the state taxes of 31.2 cents per gallon of gasoline and 35 cents per gallon of diesel ends at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
The Republican Kemp began waiving the taxes in September when he issued a novel legal declaration finding that high prices were an emergency. Georgia's governor can suspend tax collections during an emergency as long as state lawmakers approve the action the next time they meet. But because the General Assembly is beginning a special session Wednesday to discuss legislative and congressional redistricting, Kemp could not extend the waiver of the taxes past then.
Kemp has asked lawmakers to approve his action in the special session. He could also ask lawmakers to pass a law to extend the tax break. But Kemp spokesperson Garrison Douglas said Tuesday that the governor doesn't plan to ask lawmakers to act. Douglas said it's possible that Kemp could issue a fresh emergency declaration once the special session ends.
Douglas said Kemp was talking to legislative leaders "to decide next steps after this session and before the next session." That next regular session begins on Jan. 8. He said one issue will be whether gas prices keep falling, as they have nationwide since Kemp revived the fuel tax break in September.
The rollback aided Kemp 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.
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.
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 overall tax collections are declining, a sign that Georgia's economy may be slowing.
On Tuesday, Georgia drivers were paying an average of $2.79 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline, according to motorist group AAA. That was the third-lowest lowest price among the states behind Texas and Mississippi, and down 78 cents since Kemp suspended the taxes. The national average of $3.25 has decreased 59 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.