A crow flies over the sign of a gas station in Bartow County. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder.
Georgia motorists could soon be paying less at the pump thanks to a healthy state budget surplus, and analysts say they may get another surprise assist from the earth’s axial tilt.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Tuesday he plans to suspend the state’s fuel tax, declaring a state of emergency due to high levels of inflation. The suspension is set to go into effect Wednesday and last through Oct. 12. Kemp’s office said the cut will save Georgians 31.2 cents per gallon of gasoline and 35 cents per gallon of diesel.
Kemp placed the blame for high gas prices squarely on the shoulders of President Joe Biden.
“From runaway federal spending to policies that hamstring domestic energy production, all Bidenomics has done is take more money out of the pockets of the middle class,” Kemp said in a statement. “While high prices continue to hit family budgets, hardworking Georgians deserve real relief and that’s why I signed an executive order today to deliver it directly to them at the pump. Working with partners in the General Assembly, we’ll continue to help Georgians weather the economic headwinds caused by this president, his administration, and their allies in Congress.”
Inflation dropped to a 3.2% rate in July, a drop from 8.5% for the same month the year before, according to the Consumer Price Index.
Some economists charge federal domestic policy with exacerbating inflation, but other factors have likely contributed to this summer’s high gas prices, including a production cut from Saudi Arabia and Russia as well as extreme heat forcing refineries to decrease production.
Whoever is to blame, the average Georgian is currently shelling out $3.57 for a gallon of regular gasoline, according to AAA, which means filling up a 15-gallon tank will cost $53.55. Subtracting the excise tax would bring the damage to about $48.87.
Georgia is already faring better than most states, with the U.S. average price at the pump Tuesday at $3.86. States out west are paying the most, with Californians paying $5.46 a gallon.
Georgians are paying more at the pump than they were a year ago – a gallon of regular cost just $3.24 in the halcyon days of Sept. 12, 2022, a 33-cent difference – but prices are relaxing in the short term.
A gallon of Peach State regular would have cost $3.59 a week ago or $3.63 a month ago.
A downward trajectory is typical for this time of year, petrol professionals say, and it’s got nothing to do with election season.
Mid-September is when gas stations begin selling winter blend fuel. Winter gasoline is cheaper to produce and helps engines start more easily in cold weather, though it creates more emissions.
According to GasBuddy, gas prices typically fall between 10 and 30 cents per gallon between mid-to-late September and November as gas stations switch to the cheaper winter blend and demand for motor fuel falls with the mercury.
Head of GasBuddy petroleum analysis Patrick De Haan said drivers in states like Iowa and Minnesota facing steep fuel costs have reason to hope for relief, even without Kemp’s help.
“There is some good news for those in the hardest hit states in the Midwest, however, as gasoline prices should start to level off and even decline by mid-week,” De Haan reported Monday. “And with most of the nation switching back to cheaper winter gasoline on Saturday, we should see more price decreases for most of the nation in the weeks ahead, barring further refinery disruptions and hurricane season. Fall tends to bring falling gas prices, and I’m hoping this year won’t be any different.”
Kemp suspended the state’s gas tax for most of last year amid high general inflation and pressure on gas prices from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Between March and December, about $1.7 billion ended up in fuel tanks instead of state coffers, about $170 million per month, but with years of multi-billion budget surpluses, the state can likely endure the loss without making cuts to services.
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