Georgia’s lawmakers wrapped up their three day Biennial Institute this afternoon after learning about issues facing the state, including health care, the budget, and transportation.
During Monday’s session on transportation, House Transportation Chairman Jay Roberts, who co-chaired the Joint Study Committee on Transportation Funding, described the committee’s goals, but not the group’s recommendations. From the Morris News Service:
On Monday, state leaders hinted at a tax increase.
“We’re not looking for a two-year or three-year plan. We are looking for a long-term plan to bring that much money in every year,” said state House Transportation Chairman Jay Roberts.
Roberts and his Senate counterpart conducted eight field hearings over the summer and fall across the state to get funding options. People eager to see the report from those hearings were disappointed because the deadline was extended another month, but Roberts suggested some type of boost in the gas tax will be among the recommendations.
Those in attendance heard the reasons current funding isn’t enough to meet Georgia’s needs, including decreased funding from the federal government and less revenue from the state gasoline tax due to more fuel efficient vehicles, including electric vehicles that don’t pay the tax at all.
While the Metro Atlanta Chamber is pushing for increased funding for transportation, it appears that voters are wary of an increase in the gas tax. One metro Atlanta legislator posed this question on his Facebook page:
Would you be willing to pay additional amounts per gallon of fuel for road and infrastructure build? If so how much? 5 cents? 2 cents?
Over 100 comments later, it was pretty clear that most of the commenters were against the idea, with feedback ranging from demands that waste, fraud and abuse should be found and then redirected to transportation, to threats to vote out any elected official who voted in favor of increased taxes. Over at the Saporta Report, Saba Long paints a good picture of what the responses were, along with some counterarguments.
While there was talk that recommendations for transportation funding might come from Governor Deal as he addressed attendees at the transportation summit hosted by the American Council of Engineering Companies – Georgia and the Georgia Chamber, he apparently wanted to let the committee provide the details:
If an increase in the gasoline tax is the transportation funding mechanism chosen by the legislature, they will need to keep this in mind: According to the Morris News story, a constitutional amendment would be required–meaning the tax would be put to the voters, likely in 2016. Judging by the responses to the State Representative’s Facebook question, it will take some persuasion to convince a majority of voters to approve a tax increase.