Gas tax politics heat up

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Gas prices surged to $4.99 in Louisville on June 2, 2022, as seen on a Circle K sign along Dixie Highway.
Gas prices surged to $4.99 in Louisville on June 2, 2022, as seen on a Circle K sign along Dixie Highway.

With gas prices soaring in Kentucky and just about everywhere else, Gov. Andy Beshear stepped in last week to halt a scheduled increase in the state gas tax rate — which did not earn him any acclaim from Republican officials.

Also in this week's newsletter, we have yet another official Republican entrant to the 2023 race for governor, the secretary of state taking issue with "frivolous" recount requests from GOP primary losers and the makeup of a new commission that will determine how $240 million will be spent to tackle the opioid crisis.

Beshear's 2 cents

With the state's gas tax rate scheduled to automatically increase from 26 cents per gallon to 28 cents per gallon on July 1, the governor stepped in Thursday with an emergency regulation to temporarily freeze that rate, citing the already skyrocketing gas prices hitting Kentuckians.

Republicans were not impressed with Beshear's action and had 2 cents of their own for him, calling his move both illegal and of an insufficient size for Kentuckians to actually receive relief — while blaming President Joe Biden for high price of gas.

Two political items of note on this:

First, would Republicans actually sue Beshear to challenge the legality of his action and restore the 2-cent tax hike? Secondly, the chamber-backed legislation to raise the state's gas tax is looking all the more improbable, especially after its lead legislative proponent — Rep. Sal Santoro, R-Union — shockingly lost his GOP primary last month.

If you want to get all the political news from The Courier Journal and a whole lot more, you'll want to check out this great deal for new subscribers!

Maddox joins growing GOP field

Outside the state Capitol, Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, shows support for protesters who wanted Kentucky to reopen during the pandemic. Gov. Andy Beshear was giving his daily COVID-19 update at the time. More than 100 people protested. April 15, 2020
Outside the state Capitol, Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, shows support for protesters who wanted Kentucky to reopen during the pandemic. Gov. Andy Beshear was giving his daily COVID-19 update at the time. More than 100 people protested. April 15, 2020

We're now up to nine Republican candidates officially declaring their run for governor against Beshear in 2023, with state Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, launching her bid in Boone County — "liberty" central.

Maddox's campaign launch video blasted Beshear's pandemic policy as "tyranny" and aligned herself with Donald Trump, but also blasted other unnamed Republicans running for governor as enabling the governor's policies.

"Some Kentucky Republicans were cheering on Beshear, while I fought him every step of the way," Maddox said. "To me, that's unconscionable and completely disqualifying in a Republican candidate — but especially among those who want to run for governor. Just admit that you're actually a Democrat and go run in the primary in their party."

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles launched his campaign last week with a pledge to keep his primary race with other Republicans clean and collegial — but it's clear Maddox isn't playing by those rules.

Who else is in or a maybe on the 2023 race for governor? Here's our breakdown of every candidate who has officially launched their campaign or is publicly considering one.

'Frivolous' recounts?

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams

Six Republican candidates from the "liberty" wing of the party who lost their primary race last month have filed petitions in circuit court for an official recount — including three state House candidates who lost by a landslide to incumbents.

Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams is crying foul on several of these petitions, calling them "frivolous" actions wasting state time and resources, indicating he will back legislation next year to allow them only in close races.

Bridgette Ehly — one of the losing candidates to petition for a recount in order to "look under the hood" and "check the tech" — had sought for her bond to pay for a recount be set at $2,000, but a judge ruled this week it would instead be $21,700, as security and personnel costs will be significant.

Opioid settlement funds

Kentucky will soon have $483 million coming its way from the massive litigation settlement with companies that distributed and manufactured prescription opioids, and a new state commission will determine where half of those funds go.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced the new members of the Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission this week, personally appointing six of its nine voting members.

In case you missed it...

  • Here's a look at Stuart Ray, the Louisville businessman and Republican nominee for the U.S. House in Kentucky's 3rd congressional district.

  • A man suspected of killing a Wisconsin judge also reportedly had Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and two Democratic governors on his "hit list."

  • Increasing gas prices aren't the only thing bedeviling Louisville commuters, as Ohio River Bridge tolls are set to jump by more than 8%.

Reach reporter Joe Sonka at jsonka@courierjournal.com and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today at the top of this page.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Gas tax politics heat up