ATLANTA - The state's sales tax on gasoline is rising, even as Georgians are paying more to fill up at the pump.
The Saturday start of the state's new fiscal year brought with it a motor fuel tax increase of 2.4 cents a gallon. The boost was driven by a formula that automatically adjusts the tax every six months. The state tax on a gallon of gasoline is now 17.7 cents.
Democrats said that with gasoline prices nearing $3 a gallon, Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue should step in.
Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said Wednesday that Mr. Perdue should suspend the increase in the gas tax in order to help cash-strapped Georgians.
Mr. Perdue, a Republican, halted collection of the state sales tax on gasoline last fall to help Georgians deal with soaring fuel costs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Ms. Cox said raising the gas tax is "another blow to already hard-hit Georgia families."
"Sonny Perdue can prevent this, and if he truly cares about everyday Georgians, he will," she said.
Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan said the governor could only rescind the state tax with approval of the Legislature, which is not in session. A special session was called in the aftermath of Katrina to repeal the state sales tax for a month.
"What the Democrats are doing is playing politics and showing they lack the ability to lead," Mr. McLagan said.
Ms. Cox claims that under Georgia law, Mr. Perdue has the authority to suspend the tax on his own.
Mr. Perdue's legal team says that while he can stop collecting the tax he cannot reinstate it without the state Legislature, meaning that money would stop flowing for the state's roads and bridges.
Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, who is challenging Ms. Cox for the Democratic nomination for governor, agreed with Ms. Cox on suspending the fuel tax increase.
"Mark Taylor believes Georgians need immediate relief from this gas tax increase, and that it should be suspended now," spokesman Rick Dent said. "There is no need for a special session."
According to a daily tracking report from AAA, gas prices in Georgia have risen 70 to 80 cents a gallon since last summer.
Garrett Townsend, a spokesman for the Georgia chapter of AAA, called the spike "unprecedented."
"You normally see a slight increase this time of year, but what we are seeing this year goes beyond that," he said.
In Georgia, the average price for a gallon of gas is now $2.867, according to AAA.