House Passes a Transportation Bill

The AJC has more here.

Taking to the well for the first time this session, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston in a rousing speech led the House to pass HB 277, a bill for transportation funding by a vote of 141-29.  The Senate is still debating it now.

The bill would divide the state into 12 regions.  A “roundtable” of local elected officials in each region would draw up a list of projects for the region, and could then submit the list to voters for their approval in a referendum, along with a 1 percent sales tax to fund them.  No county could opt out of a region’s tax, but a roundtable could decline to hold a referendum in the region.

There is something for MARTA: a three-year lift of the restriction on how it can spend its money from sales tax revenues.  The new tax revenues in the Atlanta region could not be spent on operations and maintenance in the current MARTA system, but it could be spent on operations for new MARTA projects.

Beneath the breakthrough was the reality that the new tax money would not flow until probably 2013.  That and the moderate help for mass transit led to some dissent.

Update: The Senate just passed the bill 43-8.

25 comments

  1. chefdavid says:

    I can’t wait to read the current form and see the votes. This came so fast. I feel like what my senator said ealier this week on a local radio station, kind of like groundhog day.

  2. Progressive Dem says:

    Far from perfect, but workable. There is time to ammend and with a new governor and turnover in the general assembly changes are possible.

    Not allowing the funds in metro Atlanta to be spent on Marta operations and maintenance is foolish. If that is what the local people want to do with their tax money, why is the legislature interfering? The feds are not going to fund new transit if the current system is not in a “state of good repair”.

    I’d like to see how Jan Jones and Jill Chambers voted?

    • Baker says:

      I’m betting you could guess how they voted.

      Half-heartedly funding mass transit doesn’t seem to be the key to success here, either poop or get off the pot.

  3. Baker says:

    Putting on my insight hat, Charlotte just got like a half Bill in mass transit funding right? Atlanta wants to remain the Capital of the South. I’m pretty sure this requires attracting strong investment from across the country, as well as internationally. Whether we like it or not, these types of folks dig mass transit. I predict lots of investment/ corporate dollars going Charlotte’s way instead of ours unless we can really get a handle on this situation.

    Maybe we can go stir up some anti-Charlotte sentiment in North Carolina and start an “us vs. them” situation up there.

  4. edmund says:

    Sure is quiet around here when the legislature moves a big accomplishment through… Guess real policy is a lot less interesting than gossip and accusations.

    • Icarus says:

      Four years of bickering gets you a bit jaded, especially when the “solution” will take about three more years to implement.

      You may be hearing the sound of one hand clapping.

      Or, you could note that the post was at 10:00pm last night, and it’s 7:45am now.

      I guess when you think about it, I can’t believe everyone didn’t stay up all night to discuss transportation policy either.

    • Well, there’s really not a lot to say. There are no taxes or plans in the bill, just “permission” for other people to tax and plan at some point in the future. A few years from now, when some of these regional “roundtables” start putting something concrete on the table, I’m sure you’ll hear more comments.

      For what it’s worth, I’m more or less in favor. I think it sucks that the state officials can’t do their jobs on the state level… but if the urban vs. rural divide really is that deep, then I suppose it’s best to let the metro area fend for itself rather than being beholden to the yokels to approve everything.

      Anyone have a map of what these “12 regions” actually look like?

      • Progressive Dem says:

        The 12 regions are the same as the regional planning agencies. DCA should have a map on their site. In metro Atlanta: Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Clayton, Henry, Cherokee, Douglas, Fayette and Rockdale.

        • Chris says:

          Well shit. Even moving to Henry I can’t get away from the incompetents in Gwinnett trying to raise my taxes to buy land from their friends.

        • Game Fan says:

          Anybody with a streak of PALEO in them might not get real excited by a bunch of politicians sitting around and creating an entirely new level of government. But of course for the “in crowd” it’s no problem whatsoever. Because the way you get to be in the “in crowd” is figuring out where things are going and climb right on aboard. Raising a stink is up to us common folk.

  5. View from Brookhaven says:

    Did they pass it so that they could see what was in it?

    If anybody has a link to the bill that was passed, I would like to read it.

    • chefdavid says:

      I think this is what you are looking for.
      http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/fulltext/hb277.htm

      I am once again thankful for my Rep. Martin Scott for voting no and disapointed with Sen. Mullis. Mullis has fought for years that there needs to be a local opt ought which I was in favor for but now my county could vote totally against the sales tax and it pass regionally and we get a wopping 1 cent sales tax. If I am reading the bill wrong somebody please tell me there is something in it that requires a certain percentage to go to each county?

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Like the repeal of income taxes on rich seniors that came out of the workwork, it’s apparently only an issue when legislators approve legislation without even reading it when the legislature is controlled by Dems and there’s a Dem Chief Executive.

    • ByteMe says:

      Ok, but they also don’t have any large cities. So maybe the district won’t ever tax themselves.

    • griftdrift says:

      Dentistry? Have you looked at the area District 2 covers? Puhleeze.

      The answer is – it’s the only district with no Interstate.

      Now, how will this affect federal DOT funding? Honestly, I don’t know. I’d be interested in someone with more expertise in that area chiming in.

      Byte, you are correct that the tax base is not deep. However, I think there’s a reasonable chance for a tax to pass for one reason – HWY 133.

      For years, the SW Georgia legislators have been trying to get it four laned. The reason is it is the main artery connecting the areas two metro regions – Albany and Valdosta. At least now they have a mechanism to get it done. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  6. Progressive Dem says:

    The bill has no negative impact on federal funding. A couple of points: 1)The federal highway trust fund which uses motor fuels taxes is busted. The feds will have to find a new funding mechanism, but this has been delayed with healthcare, recession, financial reform. The overhaul probably takes place in 2011. Georgia has been a donor state (we get back less than we put in). Alaska is the big winner as well as some other large states that are realtively empty. I think they get like $4 back for every dollar they put in. 2) Georgia in it infinite wisdom has created Congressional balancing for federal dollars. Federal money is divided evenly among the 13 congressional districts regardless of transportation needs, lane miles, vehicle miles travelled, interstates, etc. It creates major headaches for funding projects that cross district lines. You may have noticed it takes GDOT a few years to design and complete a project. It is also going to be fubar after reapportionment. Funds were committed to a previous district that has changed will have t be tracked and reconciled. Congressional balancing is one of the reasons why fixing transportation is so difficult and slow in metroAtlanta. 3) Having a pool of local money from the TSPLOST will help local governments complete engineering work early and draw down federal and state dollars for construction. 3) Freight traffic from Savanah is exploding onto the interstates. 4) TSPOST is not the silver bullett. As the gas mileage improves, Georgia’s motor fuel tax revenues have declined in adjusted and non-adjusted terms. We’ve added another million people/cars but we haven’t added lanes or rails. The entire funding structure for transportation must be revised not only in DC, but at the Gold Dome. We aren’t keeping up with growth and we aren’t keeping up with other regions and states.

  7. Dave Bearse says:

    Mighty generous of the General Assembly to let us tax ourselves and keep all the money.

    Georgia is as much as donor as allowed by law, receiving the absolute minimum 90.5% return of federal motor fuel taxes. Factor in Congressional balancing and Georgia politics, and metro Atlanta receives back only on the order of 4/5 of the motor fuel taxes collected here. Of course there’s little need for rural areas to tax themselves—they’re already receiving back on average 25% more than what they pay.

    Project selection by roundtable? How else could the Assembly contrive to give less populated outlying GOP counties the same influence in selecting projects as Fulton and DeKalb that have much greater populations?

    The too, the AJC reported (at least in an earlier version) that the legislation requires at least 25% of the taxes collected be spent where there are collected, except of course for Fulton and DeKalb, where the requirement was at least 15%.

  8. Dave Bearse says:

    Something else about the legislation that disturbed me was the politician that was quoted in the AJC aying that the funds could help build toll lanes.

    Just what we need, a general sales tax to subsidize superior transportation for the rich.

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