PolicyBEST Goes Live, Announces Transportation Proposal


PolicyBEST introduced itself to the world this morning with a press conference at the State Capitol. Supporters and opponents of the failed 2012 TSPLOST proposal, including Michael Sullivan and Seth Millican of the Georgia Transportation Alliance, Debbie Dooley of the Atlanta TEA Party, and Neil Herring and Colleen Kiernan of the Sierra Club stood behind PolicyBEST Executive Director Charlie Harper as he outlined a possible plan to solve Georgia’s transportation issues.

The group’s proposal includes:

  • Using the ‘fourth penny’ of the sales tax charged on gasoline for transportation, rather that having it go into the General Fund as it does now.
  • Allowing counties and municipalities to band together to define transportation projects and hold local SPLOSTS to pay for them.
  • Allowing SPLOSTS to charge sales tax in amounts other than a full penny, if only a fraction of a cent tax is needed to pay for a project.
  • Streamlining transportation oversight and operational responsibility in order to become more efficient.

Harper said that as he began talking to members of the groups involved in the TSPLOST debate two years ago, he found many of the ideas behind the referendum were acceptable to people on both sides of the debate. He said one of this goals in starting PolicyBEST was to bring everyone together to have a serious discussion about what should happen next.

When asked if the group’s proposals amounted to being the infamous ‘Plan B‘ that was supposed to come out of the ashes of the rejected transportation tax, Harper said no.


  1. Scott65 says:

    Now, if that 4th penny was allowed to go to transportation other than just roads…I’d support that, but having just read the proposal it doesn’t make mention of the fact that the money cant go to transit if I am not mistaken.

  2. notsplost says:

    A noble effort, but it’s likely a case of too little, too late.

    More roads aren’t the answer – they only encourage more cars and more development.
    And the money will likely be siphoned off by the asphalt lobby and end up in their pockets.

    Mass transit and encouraging development inside the perimeter or in close-in suburbs only would make more sense. Yesterday was a great example of why helter-skelter development with no coherent zoning patterns has a cost. The lack of a grid network hurts also – most commuters have few options other than their primary roads, and without blowing up the whole thing and rebuilding from scratch, it’s going to be tough.

    A ban on all new housing developments outside of I-285 combined with expansion of MARTA into the suburbs would be a draconian step, but I think that is what we need. Politically, it will never fly, of course.

  3. Dave Bearse says:

    “We don’t have a rational, coherent strategy; we don’t have the money to implement a rational, coherent strategy; and we don’t have the leadership capable of delivering either a rational strategy or the money to implement it.” Jay Bookman on Georgia transportation, 09 June 2009

    The proposals are small bore and don’t live up to the group’s name. The group has to start somewhere though, and I’m optimistic the organization’s proposals will improve with time.

    A less than 10% increase in expenditure for transportation is welcome, but not enough. The proposal is weak in that the increase relies on cuts elsewhere. (My rudimentary calculation is the additional penny would generate one-fifth more revenue for state highway expenditure, state highway expenditures approximately equal federal expenditures ($0.18 state, $0.184 federal), plus there is significant local transportation expenditure. Factor out debt service, and the increase will likely be 10% or more though.)

    Convert the 4% sales tax percentage to a fixed amount per gallon, combine it with the current 7.5 cent excise tax, and index the combined total to inflation-fleet mpg. Elimination of the tax component that varies with price will also act to stabilize both gas prices and tax revenue.

    The other proposals have merit, but in the big scheme are not very consequential.

  4. Will Durant says:

    I would submit that a best policy recommendation would be lobbying the legislature to allow for a vote to amend the State Constitution to allow the Motor Fuel Tax receipts to be spent proportionally to each congressional district as collected. The current mandate in the constitution that it be spent evenly is a result of it being drafted in the Tom Murphy, read rurally controlled legislative era. The metro Atlanta area obviously has the most traffic woes and should not be subsidizing the rest of the state. If GDOT actually adheres to this mandate then theoretically the 6th District should not receive any money for years to come considering the most expensive contract they have ever awarded has been approved for the I75/575 express lane project.

    • Rambler14 says:

      Completely disagree. Interstates have benefit to the entire state when it comes to freight logistics and our entire economy. District 6 (or whatever NW Georgia is) should not be penalized because GDOT has taken 20+ years to solve the increase of traffic and trucks that use this corridor.

      Scrap the entire “funding by congressional district” method altogether. Why should projects be prioritized based on which District they are located in? Wouldn’t we expect our state government to prioritize based on the merits of said project (safety benefit, congestion reduction, economic benefit) without doing a region-by-region adjustment?

      • Dave Bearse says:

        The former statutory requirement for US Congressional District balancing of state transportation spending has been eviscerated by the enactment of numerous exceptions over the years.

        More information than most will want to digest (2008 GDOT presentation): http://www.dot.ga.gov/aboutGeorgiadot/Board/Documents/2008%20meetings%20presentations/September/CongressionalDistrictBalancing2.pdf

        Since that time of the foregoing presentation, interstates and freight corridor have been exempted from balancing: http://www.gpb.org/news/2013/04/26/no-more-balancing-for-interstates

        From ARC: “Senate Bill 57 Article 3, which was part of the legislative package that formed the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA), significantly affects how transportation services are delivered in Georgia. Known as Congressional Balancing, this law requires that 85 percent of Federal and state capital investment be divided equally among the 13 congressional districts, one-third of the remainder must be for “economic development purposes” statewide. The remainder is flexible as long as any district does not receive 20 percent more than any other district. Transportation entities that are excluded from the accounting include maintenance and operations, MARTA and the Georgia Ports Authority, and the Development Highway System.”

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