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.