With the end of the Brian Kemp tax break, state taxes at the pumps in Georgia will resume, at least for now

ATLANTA (AP) — Motorists in Georgia will likely start paying higher prices for gasoline and diesel as state fuel taxes are reinstated Thursday.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s cut in state taxes of 31.2 cents per gallon on gasoline and 35 cents per gallon on diesel ends Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.

Kemp, a Republican, began the tax relief effort in September when he issued a novel legal statement declaring that high prices were an emergency. Georgia’s governor can suspend tax collections during an emergency as long as state lawmakers approve the measure at their next meeting. But with the General Assembly beginning a special session Wednesday to consider legislative and congressional redistricting, Kemp could not extend the tax waiver beyond that period.

Kemp has asked lawmakers to approve his action in the special session. He could also ask lawmakers to pass a bill extending the tax break. But Kemp spokesman Garrison Douglas said Tuesday that the governor has no plans to call on lawmakers to act. Douglas said it’s possible Kemp could issue a new emergency declaration after the special session ends.

Douglas said Kemp is talking to lawmakers “to decide on next steps after this session and before the next session.” The next regular session begins January 8th. He said one question will be whether gasoline prices continue to fall, as they have done nationwide since Kemp reinstated the fuel tax break in September.

The rollback benefited Kemp during his re-election bid in 2022, when he signed legislation suspending the gas tax with broad bipartisan support. Kemp subsequently signed seven separate extensions, with the state foregoing an estimated $1.7 billion in revenue from March 2022 to January 2023.

Kemp says tax breaks for Georgians help them deal with inflation, which he attributes to Democratic President Joe Biden, although most economists say giving consumers more money usually also increases inflation.

The governor has cut fuel taxes worth about $180 million a month at the same time his administration has stressed that overall tax revenues are declining, a sign that Georgia’s economy may be slowing.

Drivers in Georgia paid an average of $2.79 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline Tuesday, according to motorist group AAA. That was the third-lowest price among states after Texas and Mississippi and fell 78 cents since Kemp suspended taxes. The national average of $3.25 is down 59 cents per gallon over the same period.

Pump prices also include a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel.