Monday, June 2, 2008

Perdue suspends gas tax increase, suggests drilling, doesn't mention rail options

Posted By on Mon, Jun 2, 2008 at 3:40 PM

Gov. Sonny Perdue this morning suspended a scheduled increase of the state gas tax.

"Frankly I don't think we can justify raising tax on gas at a time of economic stress on families," he said.

The increase would have occurred July 1 and raised gasoline 2.9 cents per gallon to 13.9 cents. It'll now hold tight at 11 cents per gallon. Taxes on diesel, aviation gasoline, propane and compressed natural gas would've raised prices to 16.5 cents, 20.9 cents, 8.2 cents and 13.8 cents per gallon, respectively. Perdue estimates the suspension will save Georgians $70-80 million dollars. That also means it'll cost the state the same amount for transportation projects that the tax revenues fund. The suspension stands until the next legislative session in January.

"I hope we can send a clear signal to Georgians that we understand the strain on families' budgets by high gas prices and we are doing all we can from the state's perspective to address that," he said.

Yet the solutions Perdue offered were akin to sticking bubble gum in a leaky dam.

"I think it's time we seriously looked as a nation at drilling on our own land and becoming more independent from that perspective while we search for alternative energies for the future," he says. "I'm persuaded we've got great reserves here that we can bring to the market very quickly rather than being held hostage from the international perspective."

When asked if he'd consider a switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrids both for his personal transport and the state's fleet of vehicles -- Perdue politely said he already travels light.

"We look at that occasionally," he said. "What I find is that is more political fluff and messaging than effect in that area. I've seen people do it. I see them ride a little car for a little while and then they're back in big vehicles after a while. I think the very fact in the whole Conserve Georgia effort we're trying to build a cultural aspect of really only driving as much as you need... I travel pretty lightly as most of you know. We don't send out two or three vehicles as most other [states] do. We're obviously encouraging our departments to use the size vehicles they need."

Andisheh Nouraee of Decatur says the governor's suspension will save him 33.6 cents per week. "That's an extra three pieces of spearmint gum per week. I think my co-workers will be pleased with that. Particularly on hummus day."

Not once during this morning's press conference did Perdue mention rail options or possible state assistance to MARTA. Georgia is the only state in the country to not offer funding to its largest metropolitan area's main transit system.

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