ATLANTA — Gov. Sonny Perdue on Monday halted what would have been a 2.9 cent per gallon jump in the state gasoline tax, saying the state should not be taking advantage of a tax windfall driven by spiking prices at the pump.
The executive order signed by the governor on Monday means that the state gas tax will hold steady at 18.5 cents a gallon.
‘‘Frankly, I don’t think we can justify raising taxes on gasoline in a time of economic stress for many families,’’ Perdue said at a state Capitol news conference.
The state was scheduled to post a higher tax on Monday that would have taken effect on July 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year.
That increase would have kicked in when many families were hitting the road for summer vacation.
Georgia’s gas tax is adjusted twice a year based on the average price of gas. When that average price rises — as it has in recent months — the tax goes up as well.
In Georgia, the price of every gallon of gasoline includes 18.5 cents in state taxes, 18.4 cents in federal taxes and a local tax that varies from county to county.
Halting the increase will mean a loss of $70 to $80 million in revenue for the state, Perdue said. Revenue from the motor fuel tax funds transportation and road projects.
Last month, Perdue suspended the state tax for off-road diesel used by farmers, miners, construction workers and timber companies. At the time, he said that he couldn’t provide the same relief for all drivers because the state needed the revenue for transportation projects.
Perdue grabbed headlines in 2005, when he suspended the state sales tax on gasoline for a month as prices soared in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Currently gas in Georgia is averaging $3.95 a gallon, according to AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That’s slightly below the national average of $3.98 per gallon.
In addition to regular gasoline, Perdue’s executive order freezes the state tax on diesel fuel that had been slated to rise 4.2 cents a gallon and aviation fuel that would have jumped 3.6 cents a gallon.
The freeze Perdue announced on Monday will remain in place until January when the state Legislature returns.
House Democratic Deputy Whip Rob Teilhet, of Smyrna, said Georgia Democrats have been calling for gas tax relief since the middle of May.
Teilhet said the failure of the state’s ruling Republicans to move forward with a transportation plan has made high gas prices even worse on Georgians by leaving them stuck in traffic.
But that transportation plan would have paid for long-term projects to ease congestion and it would likely take years for drivers to benefit.