AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Gov. Deal blocks gas tax drop

Gov. Nathan Deal and state leaders have given public backing to the push to raise more money for roads. Even before the 2015 session began,  Deal signed an executive order that made sure gas tax revenue didn't dip with the price of gas.

Every six months, the Department of Revenue sets the motor fuel tax based on an average of fuel prices. Deal stopped an increase in the tax in July when the rate was set to go up.

In December, he signed an executive order freezing the price for another six months, beginning Jan. 1, even though the Department of Revenue said the "average price" was about 45 cents cheaper.

The problem for consumers is that the "average" price the tax is based on now, at $2.946 per gallon, is well above what Georgians are actually paying for gas. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular was just under $2.03 per gallon Wednesday in Atlanta. In Augusta, it was about $1.93 a gallon.

So instead of paying a 4 percent tax on $2 per gallon at the pump, consumers are paying 4 percent on $2.946 per gallon. On 10 gallons of gas, the difference is about 36 cents.

That's not likely to bankrupt gas buyers. But the difference is worth millions of dollars to the state, and officials are loath to lose any more revenue at a time when they say they need $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year in new money just to maintain the current transportation infrastructure.

Brian Robinson, the governor's spokesman, said, "We have faced significant volatility in the gas price market. The governor acted earlier this year to prevent an increase. By acting to keep it frozen (now), it gave us some stability. It is a balancing out to some degree."

The governor will get another shot at lowering, or increasing, the gas tax this summer.






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About the Author

James Salzer has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1990.