Kemp extends state fuel tax break, again, through August

June 7, 2022 Atalnta - A customer pumps gas at Shell gas station, where the price of gasoline approaches close to $6 a gallon, on Peachtree Road near Piedmont Atlanta Spine Center in Buckhead on Tuesday, June 6, 2022. Georgia gas prices hit new heights on Tuesday, according to AAA, with an average statewide cost of $4.33 for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel. That’s still well below the national average of $4.92 per gallon.(Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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June 7, 2022 Atalnta - A customer pumps gas at Shell gas station, where the price of gasoline approaches close to $6 a gallon, on Peachtree Road near Piedmont Atlanta Spine Center in Buckhead on Tuesday, June 6, 2022. Georgia gas prices hit new heights on Tuesday, according to AAA, with an average statewide cost of $4.33 for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel. That’s still well below the national average of $4.92 per gallon.(Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Gov. Brian Kemp extended the state gas tax break another month as a busy travel season picks up, a move aimed at providing drivers with relief at the pump.

As an estimated 1.4 million Georgians prepare to travel over the holiday weekend, the Republican signed an order Friday that suspended the state’s gas tax through Aug. 13. The tax break was previously set to lapse in mid-July.

Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s Democratic challenger, has pressed the incumbent to take more aggressive steps to help Georgia motorists. She called on him in June to extend the suspension of the 29.1 cents-a-gallon motor fuel tax tax through the end of the year, and on Friday she rolled out ads at fuel pumps highlighting her stance.

The governor hasn’t said whether he’ll push the gas tax break through the rest of the year, but state officials say he can’t extend the break until 2023 in one fell swoop. State law requires a month-to-month decision, which also gives him a burst of media attention each time he signs an order.

And Abrams is trying to turn the tables on Kemp by painting him in a corner. Her campaign acknowledges he can’t extend the break all at once, but also notes that he still hasn’t committed to a longer duration.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has called on Gov. Brian Kemp to extend a break on the state's motor fuel tax through the end of the year. Kemp on Friday signed an order to suspend the tax through Aug. 13.

Credit: Staff and wire photos

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has called on Gov. Brian Kemp to extend a break on the state's motor fuel tax through the end of the year. Kemp on Friday signed an order to suspend the tax through Aug. 13.

Credit: Staff and wire photos

Combined ShapeCaption
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has called on Gov. Brian Kemp to extend a break on the state's motor fuel tax through the end of the year. Kemp on Friday signed an order to suspend the tax through Aug. 13.

Credit: Staff and wire photos

Credit: Staff and wire photos

Georgia politicians have found rare common ground on the idea of a gas tax break. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers passed legislation in mid-March to temporarily halt the collection of the state sales tax until May, saving drivers more than $300 million in taxes. Kemp has now extended it twice through August.

Each extension deprives the state of roughly $170 million a month in tax revenue vital to transportation projects. Kemp’s office has used budget surplus funds to plug some of the gap.

Georgia Democrats have embraced the tax breaks to counter GOP attacks blaming President Joe Biden’s economic policies for higher fuel prices. Energy prices have soared amid economic uncertainty worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, also up for reelection, has made a staple of his campaign message his proposal to suspend the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon until 2023. Biden recently endorsed the idea, saying it would give families “just a little bit of relief.”

Georgia gas prices hovered at $4.35 a gallon of regular unleaded fuel on Friday, according to AAA, short of a record high of $4.49 set earlier this year. That’s still well below the national average of $4.84 per gallon.