New Gas Tax May (Finally) Be on the Table

Back when Nathan Deal was still in the throes of his reelection campaign, he called talk of raising the state’s gas tax “premature.” But the Governor also cautioned, “I want to see what the study committee comes back with.”

Now it appears that study committee—officially named the Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding Joint Study Committee—is leaning toward recommending additional revenue earmarked for investments in infrastructure.

In an email to the AJC, House Speaker David Ralston had this to say:

“We’ve got to deal with our transportation inadequacies and that means funding. Whatever form that takes, we have to reach a consensus and have the resolve to see it through.”

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle seemed to agree even during the election. In a debate with Democrat Connie Stokes, he said, “This committee is going to come back with significant recommendations. And it does need to be big, and it needs to be bold.”

And while some may question the political viability of such a move, former State Representative Ed Lindsey, who is serving on the committee as a citizen, seems to think inaction could be even worse:

“Transportation is a critical aspect of our needs, and we’re going to be blamed for it. We own it, and if we don’t fix it, we’re in trouble in the long run. We can’t point the blame at Obama or anybody else anymore. This is all ours now.”

However, most of the conversations driving the need for reform have focused on roads and bridges. Few committee members have spent much time talking about increased investments in transit systems—even though MARTA expansion proved extremely popular in Clayton County last week.

But that may simply be a symptom of the odd make-up of the Study Committee itself. The committee, set up by the legislature, has twelve members. Only two of them are Democrats. And neither of those Democrats are from Atlanta.

With such little political representation from Georgia’s notoriously traffic-plagued city, it’s likely that even the direct appeal for funds from MARTA’s CEO Keith Parker on September 30 fell on deaf ears.

Nevertheless, time for debate is quickly running out. According to the General Assembly’s website, the Study Committee is set to make its official recommendations by November 30.

115 comments

  1. Charlie says:

    “However, most of the conversations driving the need for reform have focused on roads and bridges. Few committee members have spent much time talking about increased investments in transit systems—even though MARTA expansion proved extremely popular in Clayton County last week.”

    As someone who has been following this closely and spoken to most of the committee members directly, I’m going to give you some pushback on this graph (and the next one).

    The supposition that because only two Democrats are on the committee that transit isn’t part of the discussion is a continuation of a false premise and a construct that continues to be one of the worst enemies of MARTA expansion. As an example, I’ll give you a conversation I had after we launched PolicyBEST. I was asked if we took into consideration that poor people had been exported to the suburbs via section 8 vouchers when we put our transportation recommendations together, and thus the suburbs’ need MARTA to help move the region’s poor. I said “no”, because one of MARTA’s greatest problems is that it is viewed by suburbanites as a way to move around poor people and we didn’t want to extend that stereotype.

    For MARTA to be embraced by suburbanites (and the political majority of Georgia) it has to be viewed as part of an overall transportation solutions for ALL people, not just poor people.

    And thus, back to this point, the committee has both Senator Brandon Beach of North Fulton and former Rep Ed Lindsey of Atlanta. If you want MARTA/Transit to be part of the discussion to those in power, you don’t need Democrats that are easily ignored by a super majority. You need people with solid R cred that can advocate to their peers.

    Here’s one quick example from Brandon Beach:

    http://www.peachpundit.com/2014/06/17/marta-considers-expansion-toward-republicans/

    One of the biggest challenges this committee faces is preconceived opinions on all sides. Let’s not do that with MARTA/transit any more than we should with which funding sources are/aren’t on the table.

    • Anonymole says:

      As long as MARTA pushes/markets itself to be the option for poor people, it will continue to be used primarily by poor people. MARTA needs to look at what the DC Metro has done for moving people around that area and copy as much as possible.

      Housing costs in the DC area go up near metro stops, not down, because people in general (ie:not just black, white, yellow, poor, rich or middle class) are willing and even eager to use the service. Stations are safe and the trains and buses are clean.

        • androidguybill says:

          Atlanta could do itself a lot of good by:

          A) creating a lot of new parking (mostly by condemning vacant buildings)
          B) FINALLY taxing parking (or running it themselves) as a revenue source. It would literally raise tens of millions a year. Creative Loafing has been advocating this for 20 years, yet no one in city hall listens.

      • Charlie says:

        Again, the article I cited talks about MARTA moving well into North Fulton, as a way to move people to/from Alpharetta/Sandy Springs/Buckhead. It’s about today and tomorrow’s tech workers corridor, not moving around the fast food workers who feed them lunch.

        Likewise, the #1 expansion priority under TSPLOST would have been the Emory Corridor connection. It would have been for the workers at Emory & the CDC. Emory is Georgia’s 2nd largest private employer with the CDC adjacent to their main campus & hospital. And yet the area is landlocked and served by a system of mostly two lane roads. Again, look at the salaries of Emory & the CDC. “Not poor people”.

        I’m not aware of any effort MARTA has that “markets” itself to poor people. It’s the folks trying to be “helpful” that continue to perpetuate this stereotype. And, shockingly, it’s not helpful.

      • androidguybill says:

        “Housing costs in the DC area go up near metro stops, not down, because people in general (ie:not just black, white, yellow, poor, rich or middle class) are willing and even eager to use the service. Stations are safe and the trains and buses are clean.”

        Pardon, but that is because the DC area lacks the segregation politics (for lack of a better word) that A) causes one constituency to root for urban-controlled institutions to fail and B) causes the other constituency to view any attempt to be cooperative with/conciliatory towards A) to be treasonous betrayal. And with all due respect, by refusing to acknowledge the significant changes that Keith Parker has wrought with MARTA (as well as what Kasim Reed has done in promoting the Beltline and streetcar) and continuing to claim “As long as MARTA pushes/markets itself to be the option for poor people, it will continue to be used primarily by poor people” you honestly place yourself in the A) camp.

  2. View from Brookhaven says:

    Not even a week after the income tax cap passes, Republicans want to raise your taxes.
    *giggles*

  3. Jon Lester says:

    I just hope they don’t allocate the projections before new revenues are collected and counted. Metro Atlanta commuters are famously stubborn about wanting to drive themselves rather than use MARTA or rideshare, and at any cost, but people who live along the Alabama and South Carolina borders will simply modify their behavior in response to the new tax.

  4. androidguybill says:

    “Only two of them are Democrats. And neither of those Democrats are from Atlanta.”

    But one of the Democrats is Calvin Smyre, who is one of the most respected, serious policy guys in the black caucus, and a real advocate for rail (both commuter and freight). The other is David Lucas, who, while a bit problematic, has nonetheless logged nearly 40 years in the state legislature and is regarded by the GOP (and the far left, which despises him for it) as a pro-business chamber of commerce type (Lucas himself is an entrepreneur) and is also pro-transit. Allow me to propose that those two would be far more effective in promoting the interests of transit than would dozens of the sorts of carnival barkers that engaged in nonsense like making Laura Lawson the MARTA CEO (remember that transit advocates)?

    But here is the deal: my bet is that the increased gas tax revenues will go to the long (and purposefully) cash-starved GDOT. (Please note: one of the main reasons that the GDOT was denied resources to begin with was precisely because the GDOT, being less political and partisan due to its large number of career employees – read Democrats – in influential positions in the agency, supported transit and other “urban” projects.) The GDOT will then fund whatever transit projects that are on its priority list, which will give suburban and rural GOPers political cover.

    Some transit projects are already on the GDOT list. Expect to see others, such as expansion of MARTA up Georgia 400 into North Fulton and expansion of MARTA into Clayton, added to it soon. Also do not be shocked to see BRT projects in Clayton and Gwinett added to the BRT priority list, as Brandon Beach was the one who talked about how ridiculous that it was that it took 3 hours to go from Gwinnett to Kennesaw:

    http://patch.com/georgia/woodstock/sen-beach-metro-transit-system-should-be-more-collaborative_5d4d9549

    One thing that actually COULD happen: a shift in the transit debate from one focused on heavy rail to benefit urban constituencies/economic development issues to one where suburban interests will want them to relieve traffic and drive economic development. Case in point: the Braves stadium in Cobb County, plus the “brain BRT” proposal of Cobb commissioner Tim Lee to link Kennesaw State with Georgia State and Georgia Tech. So my bet is that this project will fund plenty of transit, just not necessarily the types of projects that MARTA advocates have been promoting for the past 30 years. If the urbanists want their piece of pie, they had better find ways to piggyback their proposals off the sort of projects that Beach, Mike Jacobs, Tim Lee, the business interests in north Fulton etc. For example, if Clayton County leaders aren’t already talking about getting Tim Lee’s proposed brain BRT line to go past Georgia State/Georgia Tech downtown to include Clayton State University, well then Clayton County just needs new leaders.

  5. Will Durant says:

    100% of the taxes on motor fuel needs to go to highways, roads, and bridges. This includes any county SPLOSTs but obviously not any TSPLOSTS already in place. It is important for people statewide to know that every cent they pay in taxes on motor fuel goes in as their “user fee” for roads. This makes the necessary increase more palatable statewide.

    Since the Lexus Lane tolls do not even being to defray their costs anyway and they are ostensibly being constructed as bus lanes to maintain a minimum speed of 45 mph to facilitate this purpose. Use a portion of the tolls to then pay for transit. All of the separate bus systems must be combined regardless of political boundaries and/or rivalries. Running them separately is just a waste of taxes in overhead and redundancy.

    • androidguybill says:

      “100% of the taxes on motor fuel needs to go to highways, roads, and bridges.”

      Nope. It is going to go towards the long-underfunded GDOT to provide for common transportation needs. If you have another revenue source for GDOT, name it.

      “All of the separate bus systems must be combined regardless of political boundaries and/or rivalries. Running them separately is just a waste of taxes in overhead and redundancy.”

      Gwinnett, Cobb etc. are free to join MARTA at any time. But if the issue becomes the GDOT or some regional agency assuming control of MARTA … not without paying for it. You know, the little matter of land, tracks, buses, trains, stations, rights of way etc. that Fulton and DeKalb owns. Into the tens of billions easily. Which is, of course, a major reason why it hasn’t happened already …

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Use a portion of the tolls to pay for transit?

      At last check the I-85 toll lane revenues were less than toll lane operating costs.

      • Will Durant says:

        I-85 should have never been converted to HOT lanes utilizing the half-assed method without barriers or dedicated entrance and exits. The result is a hot mess of wild migration across all lanes by some people who feel entitled to do so, thus exacerbating the traffic in the conventional lanes. Then there is the issue with tolls escalating to maintain a minimum of 45mph for buses and psychologically trying to drive even 45 when the adjacent lane is at a standstill. Enforcement of the barrier-less system has necessitated a 36 car State Patrol post at Gwinnett Place Mall so that has at least been a revenue boost to Gwinnett County.

        I am still opposed in principle to HOT lanes but my objections have not been heeded for some strange reason and we are getting them anyway. With Cobb wanting BRT anyway it makes no sense to use buses as the excuse for the most expensive GDOT project to date with the current HOT lane project. But we can at least make lemonade from the situation and apply the tolls, (which I anticipate will be more significant than I-85), to transit so that all the rural types who think their tax dollars have been squandered on MARTA can be satisfied that it is a bunch of suburban fat cats around Atlanta that will be footing the bill. I fully realize it is robbing Peter to pay Paul but its not like that hasn’t been done before.

  6. Baker says:

    I’m all for a hike in the gas tax and us using less gas. I’m for more transit and would like a Marta that looks like this: http://www.city-data.com/forum/atlanta/1946408-marta-2040-vision-atlantas-future-rail.html or something like that.

    However, I would add…like almost all taxes and government programs, the poor are going to get hit hard with a gas tax hike. There are many of them that do not take transit and rely on their, now more expensive thanks to cash-for-clunkers (lowering the supply of a product does what if demand remains the same?), car to take them to their jobs which may be some ways away because they can’t afford to live near where they work.

    I still think a gas tax hike is necessary and am all for user fees (tolls everywhere! 75/85/400+) but I say the bit about the poor because we’re always told the left cares so much for the poor but a big hike in the gas tax will not be good for them. They can’t afford lower mpg cars and they don’t have jobs that allow them to work from home much (if at all).

    • androidguybill says:

      There are three choices.

      Raising the gas tax, which hurts the poor.
      Raising sales taxes, which hurts the poor even more.
      Raising property or income taxes, which hurts Republicans.

      Which do you think that your GOP is going to opt for?

      And that ends that …

          • TheEiger says:

            Well, that works. Raising the gas tax and a sales tax will hurt them just as much politically unless they can sell it to the people as something that has to be done. Because it does.

            • androidguybill says:

              With voters in Forsyth and Cobb choosing to tax themselves, maybe not. The GOP is not going to raise taxes in order to fund a specific list of projects (some of which will be in Fulton/DeKalb/Clayton). They are going to raise taxes and give it to the GDOT in order to give them political cover. Since everyone in the state acknowledges that we need infrastructure which requires revenue, it won’t hurt the Republicans too badly, especially if they push it through now long before the next election cycle.

  7. debbie0040 says:

    A new gas tax should not be on the table and there will be a fight like the one on TSPLOST if they try to raise it. Many legislators signed a pledge not to support tax increases when they were candidates. They would be in gross violation of that pledge. Remember what happened to Bush 41 when he broke his no new taxes pledge? Until elected officials stop using tax dollars to build sports stadiums for billionaires and other fiscal misuse, why should they be given more to be equally irresponsible with?

    There is a portion of the current gas tax that goes into the general fund. That should be dedicated for transportation. Mass Transit needs to be part of the solution…

    • TheEiger says:

      That’s why pledges are stupid. Candidate questionnaires are stupid. It’s a scheme to raise money off of candidates. Just ask Jenny Beth Martin. She’s a millionaire now only because she bad mouths republicans and raises money off of it.

      How are we to pay for our transportation needs Debbie? A gas tax increase of 20 cents (which is what it needs to be based on the last time it was raised and inflation) that goes directly to GDOT is what needs to happen. It boggles my mind that some conservatives are against the biggest of all user fees. The gas tax. I believe if you use something you should pay for it. Do you use lots of gas? Yes? That means you use lots of our roads. Then you need to help pay for them. The gas tax isn’t a new tax, Debbie. It’s a tax that hasn’t been adjusted to inflation in decades.

      • Harry says:

        As I posted elsewhere, Georgia already levies excise and other taxes of 28.5 cents per gallon, which is 20th highest in the US. In addition the federal excise tax is currently 18.4 cents per gallon, total 46.9 cents per gallon for gas purchased in Georgia.

        • Charlie says:

          And a statewide average of 12.2 cents of that currently does not go to the DOT, which is a large part of the problem. For decades, we’ve used the “user fee” for other purposes, creating an infrastructure deficit of between $100-$200 Billion depending on whose list you use.

          If all of this money were redirected to the DOT that transfers $700 Million per year. The need is somewhere between $1.5-$2 Billion to just get the top $20 Billion in priority projects funded over a ten year period. (finish GRIP program, I-285/I-20 Interchanges East & West, I-75 and I-16, among others).

          So fixing the execise tax to its use gets us half way there, minimally. The rest of the money needs to come from somewhere.

          • Harry says:

            My suggestion: Use the existing gas tax to fund roads and make up the shortfall elsewhere with personnel cuts. No new taxes. Read my lips.

            • Will Durant says:

              My suggestion: you don’t have to pay the gas tax. Ride a bicycle, stay at home, or, to match your oft stated cultural wants and wishes, buy a horse.

        • TheEiger says:

          I’m assuming this is where you are getting your info? You could also say we are the 30th lowest. Let’s looks at the bottom few. Alaska, Wyoming and New Jersey. I can say I’ve been to all three. New Jersey is pretty good, but they subsidize their roads will a million tolls. Alaska and Wyoming; not sure we really want the roads and infrastructure they have. It’s pretty bad in both states.

          http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-gasoline-tax-rates-2009-2013

        • androidguybill says:

          Georgia’s gas taxes are so high because the other taxes are so low. Like I stated above, the GOP could either raise the other taxes and pay a huge political price or raise the gax taxes and pay a small one. No contest …

      • debbie0040 says:

        Jenny Beth is not a millionaire and some Republicans sure as heck need criticizing. It wasn’t just Obama and the Dems that got the nation in the fiscal mess we are in. They had help from big government Republicans..

        I really hope you guys try to spin it is it is not a new tax… TSPLOST II begins

        • TheEiger says:

          Not sure who the you guys you are referring to are. TSPLOST was a horrible idea. That’s why the solution is to take the legislature as out of it as much as you can. All gas tax goes to GDOT. The gas tax also needs top be increased. Plain and simple.

          Do you and the other Tea Party groups plan on coming out with a transportation solution or just screaming hell no for the next couple of years? I would love to have a conservative tea party solution to point to. I’m also sick and tired of defending you guys. I’m done.

            • TheEiger says:

              I’m glad you posted something from two years ago, and I have the same concerns as I had then about your plan. It’s a mile wide and inch deep. I’ll give you a few examples.

              You said in this thread, “Start taking a look at all the tax credits/corporate cronyism given to big business.” Yet you said this in your plan, “encourage greater use of van pools for larger companies and state employees by offering tax incentives.” Are you for or against the use of tax incentives? I’m all for them by the way. I just think we need to be consistent.

              You say in this thread, “I really hope you guys try to spin it is it is not a new tax… TSPLOST II begins.” The in your plan you say, ““The funding mechanism should not be just from one revenue stream. We should look at consumption-based revenue in different areas.” Are you for or against a consumption based tax? I like the idea of a consumption based tax. You pay for what you use, but you seem to be confused on the topic.

              I need something from you and other tea party people other than “hell no” and plans that are worthless. This is like Kerry saying I voted for the war before I voted against it. Your plan and what you are saying now make no sense and aren’t consistent.

                • TheEiger says:

                  Me too. I’d prefer that my taxes be spent wisely. At the federal level, we need to cut things to the bone. Or in the case of the EPA, Dep of Energy and Dep of education we need amputation. If we want a state level solution to transportation we have to look at the state and not the feds. They are worthless and in debt. A state solution involves some form of increased revenue that is spent more wisely than the stupid projects that made up the first TSPLOST.

                  I understand trust is a very large problem. That is why I trust GDOT to make the decisions on transportation needs rather than the legislature.

                  • John Konop says:

                    All very good points…..Pay to play bottom line….no free lunch solutions…Also if done right it will help with real wages….via helping the economy…

                  • blakeage80 says:

                    I would caution you against trusting GDOT too much. Trusting bureaucracy, even a necessary one, is never a good idea. Didn’t Erick Erickson call it “an unrepentant cesspool of greed”? The bottom line is if we are going to give GDOT more money they should be on a very short leash. Republicans under the Gold Dome will be held responsible for how GDOT handles it’s new funds. They had better make sure the plan is solid.

                    • TheEiger says:

                      Of course GDOT will be held responsible to the legislature. No one is saying that they shouldn’t be. The legislature isn’t smart enough and trustworthy enough to use the funds appropriately. That is why the money should not go to the general fund, but directly to GDOT so that they can put together a project list to be approved by the legislature and not the other way around. Because they will spend the money on other things.

              • debbie0040 says:

                I gave you ideas and there have been other good ideas put forward by Benita Dodd. You don’t like them because there aren’t grand like you want nor raises a huge amount of revenue like you want. they aren’t worthless because you don’t like them. I don’t oppose tax incentives but believe in accountability and believe tax incentives should benefit more than just the large corporation. I don’t believe that Delta should still be receiving a tax break on jet fuel. I believe tax incentives should be responsible and not just doled out to political cronies …

                The plans aren’t worthless. Parts of 285 already use flow control and adjust spend limits according to traffic.

                • John Konop says:

                  The problem is we need a real solutions. If we do not solve the problem it will cap economic growth opportunities and all of us will feel it. Trust me no cheap solutions will solve the problem. We need a compromise, and you could be a big bridge to get it done. It can not be I get all I want or I leave the table.

                  I am all for a combination of options from tolls and gas taxes like they did in Texas, fees, loopholes…..whatever….we must keep it real about the needs for real revenue to do it right….

                • Will Durant says:

                  So if Delta has to pay a motor fuel tax on jet fuel that isn’t used on our highways does this mean farmers need to pay the motor fuel tax for their tractors as well?

                • TheEiger says:

                  I don’t dislike your ideas because they are worthless I dislike them because we don’t have the money to implement them. As a state, we do not lack for great ideas for transportation solutions. We lack of a steady way of paying for them that doesn’t have us begging the feds for more money. Look at every major transportation project occurring in the state right now. They all have taken way too long to happen because we have had to beg for years for money from the feds. Port of Savannah dredging, reversible I-75/I-575 lanes, new 400/285 interchange are all years behind because we have been begging at the federal government teat. It will always be this way unless we have a state funding solution.

              • Dave Bearse says:

                She’s giving it the immigration reform treatment…secure the border and then reform immigration, except that the border would never be secure enough.

                Likewise a collection of small transportation projects will never be good enough (since they all won’t be preferred road projects in the backyard), thus nothing big ever happens.

    • androidguybill says:

      The portion of the current gas tax that goes into the general fund:

      A) isn’t nearly enough

      and

      B) currently goes to fund other popular priorities like education and health care

      The reality: Georgia has done a terrible job of investing in its infrastructure for decades. We were able to “get by” because we were still better than surrounding states, and also because economics was a lot more local (agriculture/manufacturing etc.). That has changed. Florida, Texas, North Carolina etc. have made massive infrastructure improvements, plus Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee have made significant economic strides, with Louisiana starting to also. (Alas, there is still Mississippi!) And the economy is now national and even global. Georgia needs major improvements to keep up, and the revenue for it it can’t come from our (similarly lagging and underperforming) educational and health care systems.

      Georgia should have taken care of this decades ago, during better economic times and when land and labor was a lot cheaper. As late as Roy Barnes’ first term, things like building the Northern Arc and bringing transit into the northern suburbs would have been much cheaper and gotten done much quicker. But we decided to sit on our hands back then, which means we need to pay for it now.

  8. debbie0040 says:

    Start taking a look at all the tax credits/corporate cronyism given to big business and find out if businesses locating here actually delivered on the jobs they promised. Look at other tax credits as well – like the tax break Delta gets on jet fuel.

    The big problem is that Georgia has a beer pocketbook and the Chamber of Commerce elitists have champagne tastes. Start smaller with the funding that can be found without raising taxes. Have the gas taxes actually go to funding transportation.

    People are struggling to put gas in their cars and some are actually considering making filling up tanks even more expensive while at the same time big business is given all the tax breaks…

    TSPLOST II begins…

    • Baker says:

      “Start taking a look at all the tax credits/corporate cronyism given to big business and find out if businesses locating here actually delivered on the jobs they promised. Look at other tax credits as well – like the tax break Delta gets on jet fuel.

      The big problem is that Georgia has a beer pocketbook and the Chamber of Commerce elitists have champagne tastes. Start smaller with the funding that can be found without raising taxes. Have the gas taxes actually go to funding transportation.”

      I agree with all of this…I was for TSPLOST and for a gas tax hike but there is no denying our corporatism.

      • Baker says:

        My feeling is TSPLOST & this is one of the few things government is supposed to do so let’s do it. I’ve been talking for years now about the corporatism bit but it doesn’t get much attention. How about we not elect people that are going to do that kind of nonsense?

        • John Konop says:

          The problem is if we can only do this if the bill is perfect than it will never happen….I do think Brandon Beach knows this topic well….and for the most part he will get us what we need…..nothing is ever perfect via horse trading to get it done…..nothing getting done for years is making the problem worse…and the cost is going up the more we put it off…..

          • Baker says:

            Amen to all that…

            The longer we put it off the harder it is to get done legally and structurally (word choice?) as well. The tighter development gets in areas that we may want to utilize for a road or transit option makes it that much harder to get right of ways, impact studies etc etc…

        • debbie0040 says:

          On issue is that the Chamber elitists pushing this are the same ones that push for tax breaks for big business, pushed for public funding to build the news sports stadiums , etc. When it comes to raising revenue, they want to take it from the little guy-not stopping public funding of sports stadiums and all the corporate cronyism give-a-ways. These elitists treat tax payers like they are cash cows.

          Start with giving the 12.2 cents to transportation and think about distance ridden transit fees, think about a toll road expressway that completely goes through the metro Atlanta area without exits, etc. Start small and prove to tax payers you can be responsible with the projects ..

          We heard doom gloom during the TSLPOST fight about all the jobs we would lose, etc. That scare tactic never came to fruition..

          • Baker says:

            “We heard doom gloom during the TSLPOST fight about all the jobs we would lose, etc. That scare tactic never came to fruition..”

            We do have the highest unemployment rate in the nation so to say it never came to friution might be a stretch.

            P.S. – I’m using my edit time to repeat that: “We do have the highest unemployment rate in the nation”

            You don’t think our national reputation as a traffic hell-hole has anything to do with that?

          • John Konop says:

            ………We heard doom gloom during the TSLPOST fight about all the jobs we would lose, etc. That scare tactic never came to fruition…

            In all due respect the ability to move goods and people efficiently has always been a major factor in economic growth and decline. Atlanta would have been Birmingham had we not won the airport wars years ago. The fall of the USSR major factor was poor infrastructure, which is why they invest so heavily into it now. This has been part of the success of America from the beginning…the government funded Lewis and Clark, which led to us funding the railroads. I could go on and on…

          • Will Durant says:

            “think about a toll road expressway that completely goes through the metro Atlanta area without exits, etc. Start small and prove to tax payers you can be responsible with the projects ..”

            If that is starting small I don’t want to even know about big.

              • androidguybill says:

                The expressway would be for long distance drivers who do not wish to stop in Atlanta i.e. vacationers and truck drivers. It would segregate them from local traffic and raise revenue. It would be used heavily and is actually a good idea that is heavily used elsewhere (i.e. Florida). But that is only one of the MANY worthy transportation project ideas that Georgia needs.

                • TheEiger says:

                  Because there are thousands of snow birds and vacationers coming through Atlanta during rush our every morning. Come on.

                • Will Durant says:

                  If the I-75/575 project adding 2 lanes to existing right of way comes in at $800 million then this project could extrapolate to what? 20 Billion or more? Yes truckers and Floridians you can bypass Atlanta for a measly $1999.00 just proceed to the entrance ramp.

          • GTKay says:

            Debbie, that you think “a toll road expressway that completely goes through the metro Atlanta area without exits” is starting small shows you don’t really understand the extensive planning, processes, or costs that go into road building. Look at the progress in the three regions that passed the TIA if you need proof of GDOT’s commitment to follow through with the transportation plan.

            The damage done by our inability (or really, refusal) to fund transportation adequately won’t be visible to you on your way to Wal-Mart. It will play out over the next 10 to 20 years as our state misses opportunity after opportunity for economic development and growth.

  9. saltycracker says:

    Should we spend our money better, is our tax revenue stream muddied and convoluted, should tax credits stop being a spoils system ? Yes.

    That said, gas taxes should be dedicated to transportation and raised significantly. Don’t care if a lot stays in the county for ALL roads. No problem if we can reduce revenue somewhere else and there is a long list of candidates.

    Sidebar effect: higher gas prices change behavior for some. Personal responsibility thing.

      • androidguybill says:

        Lots of people opposed T-SPLOST as presented. The problem was that the opponents never came up with a viable alternative. The reason: the T-SPLOST opponents only wanted to fund the projects that they liked while blocking (or at least refusing to help pay for) others. If that is your transportation policy, then sure it is politically popular (especially in a place with so many political, ideological, cultural and racial divides such as Georgia and metro Atlanta) but the result will be spending a whole lot of money just to make the problem worse. That’s why after T-SPLOST failed, Deal refused to allow another T-SPLOST package or consider any of the “Plan B” ideas.

  10. blakeage80 says:

    Now may also be a good time for Republicans to use the transportation funding shortfall as a springboard for a discussion of overhauling our whole state tax system. They certainly have the numbers to do whatever they want, so they need to make sure there are positive economic results by the next election cycle. It would be a big and bold solution sought by Lt. Gov. Cagle. Why not?

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Because the GaGOP’s record is tax exemptions for special interests, and the policy is cut taxes for the rich.

  11. Any Democrats reading this – they have the votes to pass a gas tax increase on their own. Don’t sell out for a few buses. They just got finished winning a campaign that was largely about how everything was better without having to raise taxes.

    • androidguybill says:

      Not really. The (mainstream) GOP has never been against infrastructure spending. The issue is that Democrats have – ever since the Great Society backlash – started to try to pass off social spending as infrastructure spending.

      So, increasing education spending becomes a way to funnel social welfare programs through the schools and for the state to assume duties in child rearing that families should meet. And increasing transportation spending becomes a way to drive social/lifestyle change: A) give poor people rides to the suburbs, B) goad wealthy people into moving from the suburbs into urban areas and C) browbeat middle class people into abandoning their cars (you know because the environment).

      Education spending to actually improve classroom instruction and infrastructure spending that, you know, actually improves infrastructure? Libertarians and the TEA Party might oppose it, but mainstream GOPers do not. The irony is that if the left would reduce their social spending demands, the center and the right would find other spending more palatable.

      Case in point: T-SPLOST failed largely because folks became convinced that the whole deal was a plot to redistribute wealth from the rest of the state to Atlanta’s (black) poor. Not just in the metro T-SPLOST region, mind you. It failed in other regions because of scuttlebutt that T-SPLOST revenues collected in those regions would be used to fund MARTA. As ridiculous as that sounds, the truth is that the very reason why such nonsense is possible is because MARTA was used for social justice advocacy for so long (again, remember Laura Lawson) and only changed because it started running massive deficits and the (GOP led) legislature began to threaten to privatize it. Yes, Keith Parker has done a good job, but we can’t ignore that he (and Kasim Reed) were only able to transform MARTA’s governance because of very real threats from Mike Jacobs to shut the thing down.

      Take a look at Democrats on a national scale: Obama was elected in 2008, enjoyed a huge majority in the House and Senate and was faced with a total economic meltdown. And how do the Democrats respond? Health care and gay marriage. They had carte blanche to pass a series of major economic reforms that would have lowered the unemployment rate, addressed entitlement reform, lowered the national debt and deficit etc. but they blew it all to focus on welfare and social liberalism. That’s why the Democrats got hammered in 2010 and 2014, and would have lost in 2012 too had the GOP picked better candidates. And in this state, you had Nathan Deal on the ropes and vulnerable. What do the Democrats talk about? Deal’s refusal to expand MediCare or resort to deficit spending in order to keep the public education dollars flowing. Result? 8 point win for the GOP.

      So yes, the GOP can certainly raise the gas tax to fund new highways, expanding rail into north Fulton and Emory/CDC, and adding express bus/BRT service into Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett, and do it with virtually no negative political consequences on the right and actually gain support in the middle. The Democrats are going to have to overcome their obsession with social welfare and late term abortions (basically, to go back to being what the party was in the Zell Miller, Joe Frank Harris etc. era … or in the Nathan Deal/Sonny Perdue/David Perdue eras as those guys are all former Democrats lest we forget) if they are ever going to be trusted by voters – or at least voters outside the northeast and far west – to handle issues like this again.

      • You make some good points but I don’t see why the Democrats should give them cover to vote to increase taxes in a state that the Republicans have massive majorities in the legislature in.

  12. debbie0040 says:

    @androidguybill, RE: your response “So yes, the GOP can certainly raise the gas tax to fund new highways, expanding rail into north Fulton and Emory/CDC, and adding express bus/BRT service into Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett, and do it with virtually no negative political consequences on the right and actually gain support in the middle.”

    I have already begun to contact tea party activists and other conservatives about the possibility of Republican legislators wanting to raise the gas tax and can tell you without hesitation that you are living in a fantasy land if you actually believe that.

    The TSPLOST opponents did come up with alternatives but elitists like you didn’t like them.

    You are also way off if you believe what you stated about the reason TSPLOST was defeated. some will never learn. If you recall, many on the left opposed TSPLOST as well. There were many reasons why TSPLOST went down..

  13. debbie0040 says:

    In February 2012, we asked legislators to pass legislation that would amend TIA to allow counties to decide which counties to partner with for their transportation needs as a region. We wanted the county commissions of the regions to make the decisions on who to partner with and also on the project list and to allow fractions and then have the voters approve it. We were told that the chamber and Governor would not go along with that and were given zero chance at defeating TSPLOST.

    County commissions are more accountable to the voters locally. Aren’t Republicans supposed to believe in local control ?

    That is still a good solution for more funding. Not raising the gas tax…

    • John Konop says:

      In all due respect had we used this logic we would have no highway system, rail system, military…..You can not do planning by county to fix metro transportation issues. It is completely illogical…..

    • debbie0040 says:

      There could be a resource that would reach out to the counties and encourage them to join with other counties or offer counties a carrot to do this. Don’t tell them they must join with other counties and choose the counties for them.

      Military is completely different. We are not talking about building the road system from scratch nor the railroad. Times are different now..

      • John Konop says:

        … We are not talking about building the road system from scratch nor the railroad. Times are different now..

        Debbie,

        Times are the same the only difference is technology….. We either improve the system or fall behind….This has been true since time….

      • Will Durant says:

        “Times are different now.” And gas taxes that have not been allowed to keep pace with the times are Georgia’s Achilles Heel to keeping up with the region and most of the rest of the country.

          • Will Durant says:

            Megabus is ready when you are. North Carolina is Georgia’s primary competitor for new business and their gas tax is much higher. Then there is that lies, damn lies, and statistics thing where Georgia’s sales taxes both state and local are factored in even when they don’t go to transportation. South Carolina has no sales taxes applied to motor fuel.

            Other tidbits on South Carolina from http://www.sctransportation.com/highway-facts.html:
            About 85% of all crashes occur on primary and secondary roads, not on interstates.
            Nearly one-third of South Carolina’s primary and interstate highways are now in poor or mediocre condition.
            Approximately half of our secondary roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
            1 out of every 5 bridges in the state is considered deficient.

          • Baker says:

            “Our neighbors Alabama and South Carolina have lower gas taxes.”

            Maybe so but we spend less on transportation than they do…and we have a million more reasons to spend than they do.

            Government needs to do like five-ish(?) things. Building roads/transit is one of those things. Ours are bad. We need to do something.

              • Charlie says:

                Damned Statistics from the Brookings Institution FY 11 spending by State and Local governments on Highways per capita (i.e, not sidewalks, not transit, not any of that other stuff you hate with what’s left of your soul).

                At $296, We’re last. Dead last. Which puts us behind not only SC ($328) and AL ($458) but behind every other state.

                Every. Last. One.

                Now, go ahead and tell us and everyone else your subjective measurement of “I’m taxed enough already” so we can circle this loop again. Except don’t. Just go away. You have hopefully helped educate some of the other readers here, but I’ve been answering the same questions/comments from you for two days here, and you are done.

                  • John Konop says:

                    I am confused…..you are an accountant right? If you were advising a trucking company that had twice the business as another trucking company, but was losing business via not having enough trucks…..would you advise them to have the same amount of trucks than the smaller business that did not have a capacity problem? You are a smart guy….you understand we increase capacity of people and product movement we lower the unemployment rate….It is obvious we are not spending enough…How we pay for it, and what we pay for is up for debate…but it is clear we need to spend more…

                    • Harry says:

                      …we also need to live within our means. Increasing gas taxes transfers money to insider special interests who benefit from multi-billion dollar windfalls leveraged by revenue anticipation bonds, rather than in the hands of the taxpayer individuals and small businesses. Transportation improvements are needed, but let’s do it by reallocation of existing resources, not higher tax rates. This state should discuss how to finance more transportation by way of line-item reallocation, for example personnel reductions in overstaffed branches, and yes some are that way. Last time I checked a couple of years ago DOT itself had too much staff and redundant offices.

                    • saltycracker says:

                      First I’d reexamine my logistics and lay out a plan.
                      Is land use planning an option ? What do we want to be when we grow up ? If we insist on Willy nilly commercial, shopping, housing density it gets complicated. Cities that aren’t cities but a conglomeration of sprawl malls, strip centers, offices and residential areas with no real center.
                      How can we improve flow ? One way streets, lights, roundabouts, interconnectivity in commercial areas, parking……
                      Bus lines, Marta type lines ITP and express (fewer stations) OTP?
                      The list is long.

                      The question is not how many trucks to buy but how to best improve customer service, which in trucking may be different size trucks or routes or drones or planes, trains and USPS. Logistics

                    • saltycracker says:

                      John
                      For you and I in one of the fastest growing counties in the metro, our state roads are for a large part still 2 lane roads. And the plan to fix that is years out. Our gas taxes have paid to fix that a few times over (maybe I’m wrong to think gas tax needs increasing). The state roads are backed up every day, new zoning requests flow in to add to that and Beach talks about what ?
                      We can’t even get to a Marta station in another county.

                    • saltycracker says:

                      PS – I sat on citizens committees on some of this, including DOT plans for 140, attended numerous planning meetings and talks, and debates, including TSplost which deservedly flopped in distrust………and the years pass……

                    • John Konop says:

                      Harry and Salty,

                      No doubt we need to debate the plan and how much we spend….My point is it is obvious we need to spend the money….The only material way out of this is a combination of taxes, fees, tolls……No matter what we do some people will profit off it….But the longer we wait for the perfect plan it will either hinder growth ie jobs…..and or cost more to fix it…..No win either way….

  14. Charlie says:

    From Salty above:
    “For you and I in one of the fastest growing counties in the metro, our state roads are for a large part still 2 lane roads. And the plan to fix that is years out. Our gas taxes have paid to fix that a few times over (maybe I’m wrong to think gas tax needs increasing). The state roads are backed up every day, new zoning requests flow in to add to that and Beach talks about what ?”

    The average Georgian pays $89 per year to the DOT for all these “roads we’ve already paid for”.

    For $89, you not only want the roads you already have maintained, but you want new ones to speed you to your destinations.

    How much electricity could you get for $89/year? Cell phone service? Natural Gas?

    The myth of “we already paid for it” versus the reality of what we actually pay is pretty stark in this state.

    • Harry says:

      If we could reduce the number of state employees involved with “community service boards” (4,845 employees), that could reallocate to transportation. The budget for the Employees Retirement System has almost quadrupled in four years. What’s that about? We have a tremendous and growing amount of budget associated with corrections, human resources, Medicaid, SNAP, DFAS, etc. Not saying it’s unnecessary, but just understand we have to allocate a massive part of the budget to provide for all the indigent transplants. That leaves less for transportation.

      • Charlie says:

        Sorry, you had your chance to engage me for the last three days. You kept replying to actual facts with one of two lines:

        “Lies, damn lies, and statistics”, or

        “I’m taxed enough already.”

        Both are non-responsive, and you’ve wasted enough of my time. I’m happy to engage the others in constructive conversation. You’re most interested in throwing monkey dust up into the air, and I choose not to play. Move along.

        • Harry says:

          You know we really are “Taxed Enough Already”. Please look for other answers besides more taxes. It ain’t your way or the highway. You won’t be able to convince enough of the Legislature, not even Democrats, to vote for more consumer tax.

      • taylor says:

        Harry, do you know what Community Service Boards do? The state has closed mental health hospitals over the years. Yeah, smaller government! Except, insane people still exist and society will deal with them somewhere. Many times its in jails and state prisons (costly). CSBs are the community-based service providers for those with mental health issues AND developmental disabilities. Should the state provide mental health services or services to those with Downs Syndrome?

    • saltycracker says:

      Charlie,
      Since I’m quick on here to support county/school impact fees to help in capital costs as our low taxes only maintain maybe a better way to say it – always thought Gas taxes (not enough) had a portion going to cap costs. Our problem is priorities. We are told just pay this or vote for more and you’ll get your road. As soon as we complete a piece of 400 or another road or a big intersection but Keep on paying what is and vote for more and you’ll get most back. It hasnt happened.
      I have a few anecdotal stories on presentations to committees that no one agreed with and it fell on deaf ears as it wasn’t what “the big plan was”. Trust is weak. Start moving dirt widening state roads and some may feel part of the big picture.

      • Harry says:

        “Start moving dirt widening state roads and some may feel part of the big picture.” That would help in many areas, actually, but more gas tax is not the answer and part of the reason is lack of trust. I don’t get how the special interests (road contractors, bond attorneys) think all they need is a “study group” to come up with the “solution” of taxes and the Legislature and voters just fall in line. They already tried that approach with the T-SPLOST and it didn’t work.

        • saltycracker says:

          An increased gas tax gets money from those at both ends of the income/financial gap that leave most of us in the squeeze. And I’m willing to pay $0.50 @gal – properly directed – to watch that.

          Maybe we should have Charity Navigator rate the DOT to insure money goes to infrastructure not bureaucracy

            • Will Durant says:

              Apples and kumquats. Georgia doesn’t have Florida’s tourists to fleece. We get a little revenue off of some passing through by car but that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to the beaches and the Mouse.

              • saltycracker says:

                Let’s not leave out property owners, non-residents in particular…however it is not unusual that GA gas retailers fleece us with prices approaching or exceeding the higher gas tax of FL.

                I can also solve Harry vs. Charlie stresses if H will change his handle to “No, taxed enough” Harry. It is as redundant as my “eat your vegetables” mom.

        • saltycracker says:

          Funny story – many years ago in FL we had the state govt and the big.road/ bridge builders in cahoots probably costing 5-10% but building on need. We threw them out and put in a bureaucractic empire to oversee the process. It added 5-10 years and multiple times cost increases from the lets get this built good old boys. We just can’t find the handle.

          • Harry says:

            In Georgia a few years ago, the DOT Commissioner fell in love and married the DOT board chairman. Destroyed a couple of good careers.

                • Will Durant says:

                  I have no idea what she is making now but likely is more than what she made as the DOT chief. After the GDOT board ousted her in 2009 Sonny gave her the DOT’s purse as the head of SRTA whose real responsibility has never been administering tolls but writing bonds. Deal then essentially fired her in 2013 for moonlighting as a “consultant” while heading SRTA. She wasn’t fired by the DOT board for the “scandal”. She was fired by them in rejection of Sonny’s GRIP program and the old style cronyism in project selections he promoted. All of this is fine by you of course because Sonny had changed the letter following his name to an R. Though now we need higher taxes to pay for these follies.

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