Last week we brought news of the study committee appointed for transportation funding. I’ll note that the comments section indicates that a lot of Georgians – many including myself who opposed T-SPLOST – do understand the need and want a viable solution to our problem. And it is “our problem”.
Today, Jim Galloway frames the issue well. Click here and read the whole thing, especially the part of Ed Lindsey playing the role of Cassandra. Forgive me for giving away the ending:
It is a point of pride among those in the state Capitol that Georgia, unlike the federal government, is constitutionally required to balance its budget each year. Unlike Washington, it cannot operate at a deficit.
The Plan B Committee will have to persuade Georgians that neglect is just deficit spending by another name, a tax that is levied without a referendum. Two years later, it’s still a tough argument.
Tough indeed, but frankly, even tougher than the issue as presented:
Funding options that the Plan B Committee will look at include grabbing that fourth penny, which can be worth between $180 million and $200 million a year. Tolls are another option, along with smaller versions of the 2012 TSPLOST, involving smaller groups of counties and fractional sales taxes.
Let’s be clear. Georgia is now dead last of all 50 states in transportation spending, and we spend $.60 for every dollar an “average” state spends. $200 Million a year won’t close that gap. Numbers discussed by some at the Capitol add another zero to the total annual need.
Two Billion. With a “B”. That’s an even tougher argument.
There’s going to have to be quite a bit of intestinal fortitude to have this public discussion over the next 6-9 months. Understanding the gas tax is a user fee that has been declining in value since it was set in 1989 is critical. Understanding that the fleet of cars on the road get 27% better fuel economy just since 2007 (and thus pay 25% less user fees) is key. Knowing that Atlanta is the number one city for the electric Nissan Leaf demonstrates that we have technologies that have a growing number of motorists avoiding this use fee altogether.
We’ve kicked this can down the road for so long that we have to ask if the road itself needs to be rebuilt. The solutions will be tough. The votes to pass them will be tougher.
Yet the numbers are real. Half of our state lives in one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country. If our growth rate over the next quarter century matches the slowest growth rate of the last four decades, we’ll still add four million new Georgians. There is no way to do this on our existing infrastructure. We’re barely able to pay for the maintenance on the infrastructure we currently have.
Every Georgian – especially those who feel they are Taxed Enough Already – needs to follow this committee. The problem is clearly identified. How we solve it, which means how we pay for it, is an open question. But it is one that we must answer.