Walter C. Jones of Morris News Service has this article in the Athens Banner-Herald, which is the Athens newspaper without the student uprisings. In the T-SPLOST aftermath it addresses what funding mechanisms voters would support to fix our state transportation problems.
Quoting heavily from a Georgia State University study, the article states:
“First, it appears that tolls are the most favored alternative for transportation finance. This pattern is even more pronounced when tolls are explicitly compared to taxes in survey questions.
“Another global finding is that approval is higher when the proposals are specific and respondents are provided explicit information rather than general questions concerning their support for a funding source.”
So tolls and one to one relationships in taxation? Sounds reasonable. But only 51% would support tolls.
Less than one in three motorists could stomach a higher gas tax, but even among those, the smaller the better.
Support rises, though, when drivers learned about the current funding system and how it’s not keeping up with maintenance needs, much less demands for improvement. At a time when construction materials cost more, better gas mileage is holding down fuel sales.
The situation escapes most people since gas stations don’t itemize their bills, according to what the researchers learned in a Texas focus-group discussion.
“Most focus-group participants believed that they are essentially driving for free since the fuel tax is effectively hidden,” the GSU authors wrote.
Okay, so itemize the gas tax and then people will vote for it? Sounds excellent! However, and let us down slowly Walter C. Jones:
In their own survey, the GSU researchers found support for various levels of a gas-tax increase ranged 21-31 percent. Support for adding a device to vehicles to tax them on their miles driven ranged 33-36 percent at various tax rates. And support for a monthly tax of $2 per workplace parking space was evenly split at 45 percent for and 45 percent opposed even though fewer than a tenth of those surveyed would be subject to it.
So even with more information, none of these would pass in a referendum.
But everybody wants something to pass, as shown by the BetterGeorgia poll results:
Whatever the strategy, most voters want to see something done, according to a separate survey done by 20/20 Insight LLC Aug. 15-18 of 1,500 registered voters for Better Georgia, a liberal advocacy group based in Athens. In that poll, 51 percent said the governor and state Legislature should do something, but it was split between 23 percent wanting another vote on a regional sales tax and 28 percent wanting elected officials to put a plan in place without a referendum. Another 22 percent didn’t know what to decide.
So the majority of people know there is a problem and want to fix it, but cannot agree on how. What if we had some sort of representative body, and I am just thinking out loud here, that could decide this for us?
For what it’s worth, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation recommends a multi-pronged approach:
“It’s a little more politically difficult, but it’s important to have several sources of revenue instead of just one,” said the foundation President Kelly McCutcheon.
In addition to the sources examined in the survey, he suggests raising the sales tax less than 1 percent and taxing property appreciation resulting from transportation improvements.
Commence breath holding.