The Jolt: Gas tax battle heats up as Stacey Abrams targets voters at the pump

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
June 7, 2022 Buford - Sam’s Club in Buford near Mall of Georgia was busy with motorists seeking for cheaper gas price 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 /



June 7, 2022 Buford - Sam’s Club in Buford near Mall of Georgia was busy with motorists seeking for cheaper gas price 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 /

As an estimated 1.4 million Georgians prepare to hit the road for the July 4 weekend, drivers may see Stacey Abrams’ new ads on more than 5,500 gas station pumps highlighting her call to suspend the state sales tax on fuel through the end of the year.

“Stacey Abrams says no to tax increases, but she says that’s not enough,” the narrator says. “She’s also calling to suspend the gas tax through the end of 2022 to keep more money in your pocket.”

It’s among the first political ads designed specifically for gas stations and a sign that the Democratic candidate recognizes that gas prices are getting voters’ attention-- and she plans to pressure Kemp on the fuel tax even as the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling remakes her broader strategy.

Abrams is trying to turn the tables on Gov. Brian Kemp, who originated the tax cut and has used it throughout the year to pummel Democrats for rising fuel costs.

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers passed the legislation in mid-March to temporarily suspend the 29.1 cents-a-gallon motor fuel tax until May, saving drivers more than $300 million in taxes. Kemp later extended the break through July 14.

Kemp on Friday prolonged the tax break until Aug. 13, blaming President Joe Biden’s “disastrous” policies for his decisinon. He’s also panned his opponent’s proposal as a gimmick designed to steer attention away from inflation.

State officials say he can’t extend the break until 2023 in one fell swoop. Georgia law requires a monthly decision, which also allows him to take a victory lap each time he signs a new order.

Still, Abrams’ call puts him in a tough position: If he extends the tax break for a longer period, the Democrat will take credit for the push. If he lets the suspension lapse later this summer, Abrams will accuse him of raising taxes.

Case in point: The Democratic Party of Georgia released a statement panning Kemp for “suspending it for just weeks at a time” and questioned why he hadn’t followed Abrams’ lead.

It’s the third time we can think of that Abrams has doubled down on a Kemp proposal and taken it one step further. Last month, she promised a teacher pay raise larger than the ones Kemp pushed through last year, along with an Abrams’ pitch to boost state law enforcement officers’ pay, months after Kemp did the same.


LISTEN UP. Catch up on the week in Georgia politics on the Friday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

Listen and subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


ELECTION WATCH. The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert Thursday for what could be a blockbuster case in the court next session on elections and voting rights. More from The Washington Post:

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will consider what would be a fundamental change in the way federal elections are conducted, giving state legislatures sole authority to set the rules for contests even if their actions violated state constitutions and resulted in extreme partisan gerrymandering for congressional seats.

The case, from North Carolina, could have enormous impact on the 2024 election, and it is the second major election law case the justices will review in the term that begins in October.

- The Washington Post


SCAD SCRUB. In the wake of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Savannah College of Art and Design removed a sign with Justice Clarence Thomas’ name from a campus building named for him, WTOC-TV in Savannah reports.

The building houses the Clarence Thomas Center for Historical Preservation, but the college did not explain removing the sign nor indicate if it is permanent change.

A group of SCAD student began circulating a petition to to take Thomas’ name off of the campus building following his opinion in the decision.

A separate petition has also been launched to keep the justice’s name on the center.

Also in Savannah, the Savannah Morning News reports the city’s only surgical abortion provider permanently closed its doors after 40 years this week. A Planned Parenthood location remains open, but providing only the abortion pill up to 11 weeks of pregnancy.


PRIVACY, PLEASE. As Georgia’s six-week abortion ban moves toward possible implementation later this month, listen out for Democratic arguments that the Georgia Constitution still has privacy protections that would protect abortion access for women, even if the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not.

Georgia State law professor, Dr. Anthony Michael Kreis, has more details and background in an AJC op-ed:

Georgia courts pioneered the right to privacy. In 1905, the Georgia Supreme Court recognized a broad right to privacy in Pavesich v. New England Life Insurance Co. Ours was the first state high court in the United States to recognize a substantial privacy right.

The Pavesich decision stands for the proposition that liberty means more than the right to be free from unjustified physical restraint. Liberty also includes the simple desire “to be let alone," to be free to order our lives as we choose if we pose no harm to the public, and the “right to withdraw from the public gaze."

The Georgia Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed expansive constitutional protections of Georgians' privacy that exceed federal rights.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


ABORTION CARVE-OUT. President Joe Biden on Thursday voiced support for creating a carve-out to the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster for Congress to pass a federal law protecting abortion access without Republican votes.

It was the second time Biden had voiced support for changing the Senate rules to pass legislation. The first was to pass federal elections laws, including a bill named for the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The roadblock to changing the filibuster rule remains the same as it has for months, moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema opposed and both of their votes are necessary for the majority to rule.


REACHING LATINOS. The national Republican Party opened its third metro Atlanta community center on Wednesday, and this one is targeting Latino voters.

The center is located in Suwanee in Gwinnett County and is part of a multi-million-dollar outreach effort to build on the party’s growing appeal among Latinos, the AJC’s Lautaro Grinspan writes. While Black voters remain the largest non-white voting bloc in Georgia, Latinos are the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority group and the numbers in the state are growing.

The Party previously unveiled a Black American Community Center in College Park and an Asian Pacific American Community Center that is also located in Gwinnett County.


BIPARTISAN BONA FIDES. We noted yesterday the bipartisanship at play during the opening of a mini-police precinct in Buckhead, which drew Gov. Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens in a sign of strengthening city-state relations.

It’s only one of a few recent episodes worth a mention. State and city leaders scored a goal to recruit a 2026 World Cup match to Atlanta. And a few weeks ago, Dickens and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan trekked to California for a trade mission.


REGENT SHUFFLE. Gov. Brian Kemp announced moves for the Georgia Board of Regents Thursday, with Don Waters departing the seat representing the 1st Congressional District and Blackshear-based executive Patrick Jones taking his place.

The AJC’s Vanessa McCray has more on the newest regent:

Jones has with his family and company donated about $54,000 to Kemp's gubernatorial campaigns in 2018 and 2022, according to campaign finance records.

This election year, he's given the maximum legal amount to Kemp. Jones, his family and companies have donated about $270,000 to Republican state candidates and causes in Georgia over the past decade.

Jones is a 1987 graduate of the University of Georgia, chairs the board of PrimeSouth Bank and is president of the Jones Co. and Walker Jones Automotive Group. He lives in Blackshear, Georgia.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK. Gov. Brian Kemp is expanding his campaign team heading into the final four months of the 2022 cycle.

On Thursday, Kemp announced Collin Cummings as the campaign’s new political director and Patrick Guthrie as deputy political director.

Charlie Barrett joins as state field director from Gary Black’s campaign for U.S. Senate, while Reagan McCarthy and F Myles Nuzzi come abroad as deputy communications director and deputy press secretary.


LIGHT READING. Ahead of your three day weekend, we want to sent you off with a little something to keep you reading at the beach, including:


HAPPY FOURTH! We won’t have a Jolt for you on Monday as we take a day off to celebrate America’s independence. We’re wishing all of our Jolters a safe long weekend and look forward to being back in your inboxes on Tuesday.


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