The move saved drivers and cost the state more than $150 million in July. Auto fuel money goes to road and bridge projects, and Kemp fills the taxes earmarked for that purpose with the remaining excess funds.
The July news comes a month after the state announced it ended its fiscal year on June 30 about 23% — or $6.19 billion — ahead of last year. It will mean another big surplus for the state, and Kemp should offer to return at least some of that extra money to taxpayers.
The taxes the state collects help it educate 2 million children, provide health care to more than 2 million Georgians, manage and improve parks, investigate crimes and incarcerate criminals , and to regulate insurance companies, utilities and dozens of professions. The state issues driver’s licenses and helps pay for nursing home care for the elderly.
The state is a major provider of mental health and addiction treatment, and it helps fund public health programs that are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as paying salaries, it helps ensure that hundreds of thousands of former teachers, university staff and state employees receive pensions and health care.
State income tax collections have increased in recent years, since shortly after the pandemic began, when Congress first passed massive federal aid spending. Inflation helped boost sales tax collections, with goods costing more and taxes on them also rising.
With the help of massive federal COVID-19 relief, the state ended fiscal 2021 with a $3.7 billion surplus. During the 2022 General Assembly session, lawmakers approved the refund of approximately $1.1 billion to taxpayers. Much of the remainder was placed in state reserves.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said if elected she would spend part of the fiscal year 2022 surplus on giving raises to teachers and law enforcement and paying for expansion of Medicaid, the health program for the poor and disabled, to cover more people.
Tax collection in Georgia
Georgia state tax collections for July, compared to July 2021:
Source: Georgia Department of Revenue
* Governor Brian Kemp suspended gas tax collection