Scott Drops Bill To End Tolls ON GA-400; Abolish State Road And Tollway Authority

Press release from Austin Scott:

Atlanta – Representative Austin Scott, a Republican candidate for governor, today announced legislation to eliminate the toll from Georgia Highway 400. HB 1443 dismantles the State Road and Tollway Authority, the state agency that oversees the toll and collects $22 Million annually from GA-400 travelers, as well as the toll road it operates.

“When this project began, citizens and government agreed that the toll would come down when the road was paid for,” Scott said. “Yet when Roy Barnes was governor, he directed a change in the legislation that will leave the toll up indefinitely. Now more than ever, Georgians should be concerned with their ever-expanding government. Why should taxpayers spend $20 Million to run an agency that provides $2 Million in road maintenance?”

HB 1443 will eliminate the toll and transfer any ongoing business of the SRTA into the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“This bill is about giving Georgians a smaller government that stands behind its promises, and putting money back in the pockets of Georgia families,” he added.

71 comments

  1. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    A little too late in the session don’t you think?

    If he were serious about this, he would have introduced it a lot sooner. Bills introduced this late in the year amount to nothing more than political pandering.

    • ByteMe says:

      I wonder what the epiphany was to suddenly notice something that has been a problem since Roy Barnes’ time.

      • Atlanta says:

        “Now more than ever, Georgians should be concerned with their ever-expanding government. ”

        Maybe it has more to do with the prospect of Roy Barnes being sent back to the governor’s office that sparked this little revelation by Scott. Might as well take care of big government while you can.

        • polisavvy says:

          You don’t find it odd that a representative from south Georgia is the one trying to correct this wrong? Wow! There’s no pleasing some of you is there?

      • polisavvy says:

        It’s never too late to correct a wrong to the citizens of Metro Atlanta. I wonder why none of the elected officials for Metro Atlanta hadn’t already done something. It is, after all, their own constituency that they seemed to not care what happened to, right?

        • ByteMe says:

          Ok, but why only three days from cross-over day? Why not earlier in the session? The change was made 8 years ago, why is this the first he’s trying to do something about it? Was he for it before now?

          It’s defying reasonable explanation other than pandering.

          • polisavvy says:

            The question is not to question the timing or dropping of the bill. The question is why have none of Metro Atlanta legislators done it sooner. Thank God for this south Georgia legislator who is looking out for all the citizens of Georgia and not just his constituents. I guess some will always question the intentions of others no matter how good and pure their intentions are.

          • reaganrev4 says:

            Why is this the first he’s doing something about it? You say it as if it has been his responsibility to do this all along for the sole reason he is the only one doing something about it now. If he had never proposed this bill you say should have come a long time ago, you would not be criticizing him. Very contradictory i feel like. He is getting flack for being the first to propose this good bill. Try giving a candidate a positive comment ByteMe, it feels good at times, especially when it is in regards to as honest and genuine a man as Austin Scott. If only there were a reason, other than the fact he doesnt have large name recognition, that he shouldnt be our next governor.

            • ByteMe says:

              Sorry, no sock puppet here aiming to suck up to candidates. I want better than what everyone else seems willing to settle for as long as they have an (R) after their name.

              Again: why now? Why not before now? Why not when he was walking around the state getting to know everyone? Why not at the beginning of the session or before that?

              And, yes, the question is to question the timing, since this is political season and people propose things in politically advantageous ways.

              For example, why are none of the candidates proposing to raise taxes to pay good teachers better and fire the ones who are failing?

              • polisavvy says:

                You are absolutely impossible sometimes! I am not Austin Scott so I can’t speak for him. I am not a member of his campaign so I can’t speak on behalf of the campaign. I am speaking for myself. I think it’s a bill that makes sense and would actually be a positive for those who travel 400. I also, likewise, think that it should have been taken care of years ago. I guess the old “damned it you do, and damned if you don’t” really applies here. There’s no pleasing some EVER!

                • ByteMe says:

                  I just don’t give credit to politicians for proposing something that has little chance to make it through. It’s a risk-free proposition on their part, so it should have the same amount of weight as having done nothing.

                  Now, if it gets through, I’ll be totally pleased with his efforts and outcome. But I’m thinking he did this without any real intent to make sure it became law.

                  • polisavvy says:

                    See, that’s where I think you are wrong, Byte. I really think that he did it for the reason of trying to get it passed. I don’t work for him or speak on his behalf. I speak for myself. If I knew how to get the answers to your questions, I would.

                    I’m just glad that an elected official has undertaken something that could actually benefit many people, and one that should have been taken care of years ago. At least he tried to do something, right? Since my husband has to travel 400 each day, we’d like not to have to pay the tolls.

                    BTW, I was shocked to see that I’m not far from you in the bracket.

                    • ByteMe says:

                      I’m shocked I’m still even in the top 10, considering how little I knew about the field this year.

                    • polisavvy says:

                      I know. I’m in the same boat as you. Just lucky guessing. Sorry I digressed, but am surprised to be fifth! Good luck with the rest of the tournament!

                    • reaganrev4 says:

                      Haha so no bills can be put out this close to cross-over day without your critique? When do you think new bills should stop being accepted then if two days before is not a good time? I have been at the capitol, working on day 30 and it is mayhem because legislators are trying to get all the bills they didn’t get in, in before cross-over day. Any bills deemed too close to cross-over day by Byte are for political posturing. You are doing exactly what you criticize people for by “playing politics with a good bill”. A legislator cant simply produce a bill anymore?

                    • ByteMe says:

                      Haha so no bills can be put out this close to cross-over day without your critique?

                      Why would I limit my criticism just to a time-frame? Seriously, are you unaware of where you’re posting your comments?

      • georgiahack says:

        I remember this coming up before, after Barnes was out of office. I have not been able to track down the exact article, but PERDUE is the one who wanted to keep it going and was trying to get the money to go for other projects or the general fund. Can’t remember. Also, wasn’t Perdue also trying to give the Tollway Authority over something else in his transportation plan? He knew this was still going on, but saw it as a potential revenue stream. Also, if i remember correctly, the road paid for itself right at the end of Barnes’ term and would be up to the next legislature to do something. Feigning anger at Barnes over this is just more partisan idiocy. Perdue is the one that kept it going.

    • polisavvy says:

      There’s a difference in political pandering and correcting a lie to the citizens of Georgia by the State for a toll road that should have been taken down over a decade ago. This is an inside as to how effective a Governor he will be because he is advocating on behalf of metro Atlanta instead of just being concerned about his constituency in south Georgia. Pandering my a$$!

      • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

        So why didn’t he introduce this legislation 7 years ago? Or even 7 days ago? Instead of 3 days before crossover day, and 4 months before a primary election?

        This is really an old issue BTW.

        • polisavvy says:

          I understand the age of the issue; however, what I don’t understand is why someone who is trying to correct a wrong is being criticized for his actions. At least he’s trying to do something which is more than can be said of the people who were actually voted in office to represent Metro Atlantans. What the h*ll have they been doing all these years? I think we all know the answer to that, don’t we? NADA!!

          • ByteMe says:

            Not criticizing the action or the sentiment, but criticizing the poor timing, coming 3 days before cross-over day and not enough time to build a constituency to get it out of committee and through both sides of the dome.

        • AnyoneElse2010 says:

          Because it wouldn’t have made any sense for a legislator from South Georgia to introduce this 7 years ago. Sure he could have done it earlier in session, but he didn’t so deal with it. Over the past two days I am sure that there has been many bills dropped in the House and the Senate, hardly any of them will be picked up by a media outlet. Bills get dropped during this period whether they are for media or not. This is how our General Assembly works.

          Austin Scott has not only been a good legislator to his constituents in his district, but now since he is running for Governor he is seeing issues from all over the state. If he doesn’t win governor he’s not going back to the House. Why not try to help some of the people whose stories he has heard while he still can in the General Assembly. I for one am extremely happy that this is being thrust in the spotlight. It may not pass, but at least people are now aware.

          • ByteMe says:

            We are dealing with it. We’re asking for a better explanation than “he’s a good man, leave him alone”.

          • polisavvy says:

            There is no reasoning with some people, AnyoneElse2010. You hit the nail on the head. He didn’t quit his commitment to his constituency in order to campaign and raise money. Instead, he did what he was elected to do — represent his constituents. He has done this well for the last 14 years. Of course when a candidate for a state-wide election drops a bill it is going to attract media attention. Some call it pandering. I call it someone looking out for others. I guess I live in a simplistic world where I still try to find the good in everyone. Maybe one day I’ll become cynical and question any motive behind anything that anyone does!

  2. Atlanta says:

    I got Scott’s email. There’s another section that says:

    “According to the AJC (3/18/09), the toll has generated enough funds to pay off the road, yet it still takes in about $22 Million per year. Of that, only $2 Million goes toward road maintenance. $9 Million goes toward debt payments, and a staggering $5 Million goes to maintaining the Toll Authority itself. ”

    It is remarkable that my legislators haven’t done anything about this and that a candidate from South Georgia is the one talking about it instead. Where have my boys (and, ahem….girls) been all these years? Roy Barnes is about to become our next governor. The timing is right.

  3. ChiefofStaff65 says:

    Atlanta,

    Just curious. As this is the second time you have expressed Roy Barnes is about to become our next Governor, where can I purchase the same eyes and brain that you have seem to have so mightily acquired? I believe, and if you scroll your little old mouse down a few clicks on the main page, that out of all the R candidates polled, all but one beat Barnes, who, I believe, as a former Governor, probably has more name reconition than the other candidates in the race. (Which is important since polling is based on name recognition alone, it seems incredible that most people would vote for someone they know nothing about before a former Governor).

    Just wondering where you get that from. Caveat, I do support yhis legislation as well.

    • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

      Who’s being polled? People with landlines who just happen to be home at the time the polster calls?

      • ChiefofStaff65 says:

        That is true. But, luckily for Georgia, if you look at the voting turnout in the last two elections, independents and Republicans have come out in larger numbers to vote than Democrats, especially in 2008 when Obamamania was inspiring everyone. I doubt if the “great one” cannot inspire a wave of voters to overtake the I and R parties, I doubt King Roy will light a fire either. I admit I could be wrong, but just my loose analysis.

        • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

          Good points. I do see Barnes beating OX. I’m not saying OX will win the nomination, but if he does, the Republicans are in deep doo doo.

      • polisavvy says:

        You know, Loyalty, since you don’t like Austin, which is quite evident, why don’t you not badger people who do support him with stupid comments? The fact is, timing or not, this is a very good bill and one which all people in Metro who travel 400 would be thrilled to hear about. It’s also a bill which should have been introduced by one of the elected officials who actually serves this area; but, it wasn’t was it?

        • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

          🙁 Geez, so much anger. I thought this was a blog where ideas and opinions could flow freely? Icarus posted this, and I merely questioned the poor timing. True, I’m no fan of Scott, but he’s not the worst the lot.

          And as far as badgering, I was simply questioning the accuracy of polling, not attacking CoS.

          • polisavvy says:

            Sorry, I was caught up in the moment. Didn’t mean to sound so harsh. I agree about the opinions and ideas flowing freely. I just mean that sometimes people can’t see anyone’s good intentions because of their own prejudice against that person. Once again, sorry for being rude. Still friends?

            • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

              And I was worried about you on the Balfour thread 🙁

              It’s all good. I should really give up PP for a few weeks, but it’s my only outlet for discussing politics, since I avoid discussing politics in the “real” world for this very reason — it sets people’s hair on fire.

              • polisavvy says:

                Don’t go on a vaca for two weeks. Stay here with us crazy people and have a good time. Sorry I was grumpy with you earlier. Didn’t mean to be nasty. Some days it kind of creeps up on me, though.

  4. Not trying to jab at Icarus in particular… but I sure wish people would stop talking about lawmakers “dropping” bills in the same way that rappers “drop” new albums. It sounds ridiculous at best, and is pretty confusing at worst.

    At least with rappers, this term “drop” has a consistent meaning. With lawmakers however, “dropping” a bill might mean introducing it… or it might mean withdrawing it or abandoning efforts to campaign for it. When I first saw this post, I thought Scott was giving up on some effort that I hadn’t heard about before.

  5. In The Arena says:

    We need to fund our highways or else our citizens lose in the end to other states with more efficient transportation systems. Gridlock on our highways is strangling our state right now. Now is not the time to cut highway funding. Rep. Scott seems to have no grasp of the reality of the situation. Maybe he should have walked through the heart of the state in addition to skirting the boundaries. Georgia as a whole has a serious transportation problem, and transportation funding problems that will not be fixed this session.

    But this is all irrelevant. Last Thursday was the deadline to “drop” any bill to be considered this session. If Austin knew that, hes pandering. If he did not know that, well he should because of his experience in the house. Maybe by 2014 or 2018 he will have the statewide vision and sufficient knowledge of the legislative process to be an effective Governor. Right now he does not have that vision or knowledge.

    • Icarus says:

      You are aware that the tolls from GA 400 can only be used on GA 400, and within the area ITP, no?

      And given his point (that I missed in the text of the release as it was in a separate sidebar) that the toll authority is eating up $5 Million a year in admin costs, eliminating the toll authority can free up money to spend on transportation, no?

      Whether it has time to make it to be considered is debatable. Given where we are with the budget, I’m guessing this year’s dash to the finish will be a bit weird, and all kinds of “creative” solutions will pop up at the last minute.

      This ain’t your father’s crossover day coming up. It’s a whole new ballgame this year.

      • B Balz says:

        Also why many Bills are passing Committee only to die of a budget disease on the Floor.

        Looks good on youtube: “I got it through Committee, but then look what they did to my Bill, Mom.”

      • “And given his point (that I missed in the text of the release as it was in a separate sidebar) that the toll authority is eating up $5 Million a year in admin costs, eliminating the toll authority can free up money to spend on transportation, no?”

        Yes, and no. Yes, it will free up the $5M a year in admin costs. However, if you’re no longer taking in $22M, you’re not really “freeing up money”, since you’re eliminating the source of the money as well. You’re effectively adding a $2M a year expense to the state budget for maintenance costs of 400.

    • polisavvy says:

      Yes, there was a deadline but it was not concrete. His bill can still pass both chambers. That’s why it’s called cross over day. The fact is that there is a tax on citizens who use Georgia 400 that should not be there anymore. To continue to collect the toll is wrong and this bill lessens the tax burden on Metro Atlantans who use 400 at a time when tax breaks are desperately needed. Believe it or not, money is very tight on a good many of the residents in the Atlanta area who use 400. A penny saved is a penny earned.

      Representative Scott is fully aware of the problems facing the entire state, not just Atlanta area, and not just south Georgia. He is trying to correct something that should have been corrected years ago, and it should have been corrected by those elected to serve the people of Metro Atlanta.

      • In The Arena says:

        A penny saved now is $10 lost later when businesses have relocated to Raleigh or Charlotte to avoid traffic congestion.

        • polisavvy says:

          Are you implying that the only traffic problems in Atlanta area are on Georgia 400? Surely you aren’t doing that. Plus, the money for 400 is to be used for 400 area. You understand that, right? So, having said that, how is removing a toll that has been placed on the citizens of metro Atlanta for more years than it should going to run businesses to Raleigh or Charlotte? Seems like you can pick any one of the interstates and see traffic as bad or worse than 400. Just saying.

          • In The Arena says:

            Congestion on 400 exists in both directions consisting of commuters back and forth between two major business centers in intown Atlanta and Alpharetta. This makes GA 400 unique in the respect that it is not affected by tractor trailers to the extent of other limited access highways in the state. This means that any solution on this road must be a local one. A western bypass or northern ARC would not relieve congestion on 400. We need to look at innovative solutions that will indeed cost money to implement. We need to begin saving now, and i think that would be an appropriate use for the toll, if there was legislation in place to allow this kind of saving for tomorrow.

            • A western bypass or northern ARC would not relieve congestion on 400.

              So what you’re saying is that all that traffic backing up to get onto 285 and from 285 couldn’t possibly be relieved by adding a secondary route without traffic lights? I think you’d be surprised.

      • B Balz says:

        Many feel their cruise cards are a badge of self-importance. Let’s not disenfranchise the too-busy-to-think-about-it demographic their right to pay and pay and pay.

        • Agreed. I saw something in the AJC’s vent not long ago from someone bragging about cruising through the cruise lane on 400 and their kids calling all those paying the toll “peasants”. My response was that the three Ferraris I saw going through the toll booths not long ago were also peasants I suppose?

  6. In The Arena says:

    Maybe we could use the money from the toll to begin saving to extend the North Springs MARTA line to Alpharetta. I would be in favor of legislation allowing creative allocation of the funds. I agree that $ 5 M seems a little excessive. There are definitely improvements that could be made with that money within the very congested GA 400 corridor. And it would be the users of the said corridor paying their share for the improvements.

  7. Progressive Dem says:

    DOT and SRTA are working on a pilot program to install a high occupancy toll on I-85 in Gwinnett County. This would permit individual drivers to use HOV lanes for a toll. Some drivers would be willing to pay the toll anytime they use the road. Others might use it when congestion on the other lanes is less bearable. HOT lanes have proven to be successful in relieving congestion in other states. I believe Georgia has already accepted federal DOT monies for the project.

    Is Rep Scott aware of this program and foresaking one of the few congestion relief measures available to metro Atlanta? Does he think tolling should ever be an option? Making big pronouncements without understanding the ramifications is rather amateurish. I hope he has thought this through.

  8. ThePoliticiansWife says:

    We are in an economic downturn this year that is forcing state government to find any possible efficiency. This is one such efficiency. When we put the responsibilities of the SRTA into the DOT, we are streamlining government processes and reducing the tax burden on Georgia citizens. Second of all, and this is to be emphasized much less than the first point, Roy Barnes is running for governor this year. Since he is the one who orchestrated the change in the legislation in the first place, we need to take this step now to send a message that Georgians are in favor of “smaller government that stands behind its promises,” not the dictatorial, King Roy style of backroom politics.

    • polisavvy says:

      Excellent post, PoliticiansWife. If ever this State needed smaller government, it’s now (wouldn’t hurt on the federal level either). Good ‘ole King Roy, now that’s what Georgia needs — NOT!!

  9. ThePoliticiansWife says:

    If anyone has questions on the timing of the bill…just know that it has been under revision for several weeks.

    As for “funding our highways,” most believe the revenue generated from the toll goes toward funding much needed transportation projects. That’s seldom the case.

    According to the AJC, of the $22 million or so the state reaps from Ga. 400 drivers, about $7 million goes to running the toll authority and $9 million a year goes to paying down the debt.

    Roughly $2 Million of the above Toll Authority costs taken from annual revenue is spent on maintaining the road, and there are incidentals such as the occasional repaving and salaries of staffers of SRTA.

    As of March 2009, GA 400 was roughly $26.6 Million in debt and the state had $32 million set aside to pay it when the project’s bond financing is concluded in 2011. Former Toll Authority Director Gene Evans went on record as saying: “The authority needs to use the excess toll money for salaries of officials who arrange financing for the state Department of Transportation.”

    It’s time to change the way we govern and bring down the toll!

    • polisavvy says:

      Thanks for providing us with the information regarding the timing of this matter. Some seemed to feel that he was just pandering and waited until the last minute to file something to bring publicity to himself. Hopefully, those who felt that Representative Scott had done this will back off now that we know it has been on the docket for a while now. Thanks also for clarifying the numbers. I think it’s a wonderful thing for Representative Scott to tackle, especially since it is not even his district. Government needs to change. It needs to get smaller. The citizens who ride on Georgia 400 should not be forced to continue to pay a toll years after the toll was to end.

  10. AubieTurtle says:

    Rep Scott, thanks for reading my Peach Pundit post a few months back. I knew someone would eventually swing at this softball.

  11. Culpepper says:

    Everyone knows this is eye candy. Scott needs press and name recognition in metro Atlanta. With new toll roads being proposed, it is unlikely that this U-turn will occur now.

    But, hey, give him credit, at least he introduced something original.

    • polisavvy says:

      The bigger issue is that at least he introduced something that should have been introduced years ago by the ones who were elected to represent the citizens this affects. Where were their representatives all this time?

  12. Mark Dillon says:

    Lets focus on the REAL issue, especially after this weekend. The GOVERNMENT builds a toll road by saying the Toll will only be collected until the road is paid off. GOVERNMENT then decides they like the money stream coming in so they change the law. The question shouldn’t be why someone now decides to bring this is up or who is ultimately responsible for this change, the question should be why do we, the people, put with this nonsense.

    • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

      um, well it’s pretty elementary, because there’s no alternative to the revenue stream. There’s really no such thing as a tax(fee) cut, it’s all about shifting the cost from one group to another.

      I don’t use 400, so if the tolls are removed, I’m forced to subsidize some other schlep’s use of the road — It’s pure Republicanism, right? Kind of like, I have group health insurance, why should I have to subsidize some loser’s individual health plan?

    • B Balz says:

      Because…. Most people now have two jobs (or used to) two kids and are too busy to care. The simple fact is, most people have no idea how to effectively advocate their position. Thus, they end up sounding foolish and/or are marginalized.

      From above:

      “The too-busy-to-think-about-it” demographic, due to either silence or inefficacy preserve their right to pay and pay and pay.

  13. Game Fan says:

    This would be a big plus for Scott as far as I’m concerned, with a big bunch of Ron Paul/Lou Dobbs type Republicans IMHO. And for the new reader Game Fan hates toll roads. And the NAFTA Superhighway. 🙂

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