At the Biennial, Hints of a Transportation Tax, But No Details Given

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.

37 comments

  1. blakeage80 says:

    Taxed. Enou…just kidding.
    I wonder if there are numbers that show some metric like: for every cent the gas tax is raised ‘x’ number of people buy alternative fuel vehicles.

  2. jbsimpson81 says:

    Taxing gasoline is fast becoming a poor substitute for a transportation user fee . As electric and hybrid vehicles become more prevalent and fuel efficiency increases, gas tax revenues decline, while wear and tear on infrastructure remains constant. Rather than spending political (and actual) capital on a constitutional amendment to increase a tax with diminishing returns, the legislature should look for a new funding mechanism that more fairly assess transportation costs to all transportation infrastructure users.

    • Will Durant says:

      What is the percentage of electric cars in our everyday commutes today or even for the next 20-30 years barring some unforeseen improvements in battery efficiency? What is the harm in encouraging people to go to more fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly vehicles by taxing motor fuels? You do realize that the wear and tear on the infrastructure from a legal 80,000 pound truck can be 10,000 times that of an econobox? If you want to tax the wear and tear then the everyday commuter is not the guilty party. What other funding mechanism is out there that doesn’t require an increased or totally new bureaucracy?

      • gcp says:

        I have no problem with folks driving electric vehicles but why should taxpayers subsidize them with $5000 state tax credit, a federal tax credit plus they pay no gas tax?

        • Will Durant says:

          Believe it or not we are in agreement on this. Electric cars should pass or fail on their own merits without government involvement. Because of this credit Georgia has a higher percentage gain in electric cars in the last year than any other state by far. Much of this is also due to some Georgia Power token efforts as well. It still leave us with less than 10,500 as of August which is around one tenth of one percent of our totally registered vehicles.

      • jbsimpson81 says:

        This is a straw man fallacy. The issue here isn’t environmental protection, its funding for roads.T here are lots of other ways to encourage consumers to choose fuel efficient vehicles, such as tax credits, subsidies etc. But again, the issue is transportation funding and finding a mechanism that fairly distributes the cost of that infrastructure across users who use it the most.

        A Nissan leaf that drives 20 miles, a Toyota Camry that drives 20 miles and a Ford Explorer that drive 20 miles all use the same amount of transportation infrastructure, but pay disproportionately different rates for that privilege.

        As to your 80,000 lb truck argument. If that truck fuels up in Cleveland, Tennessee or Greenville, South Carolina before traveling through Georgia, the gas tax fails again. Georgia doesn’t receive the gas tax revenue from that transaction, yet we still bear the cost of that truck traveling on our roads.

        A more equitable funding mechanism is to tax drivers based on mileage. Any increase in bureaucracy is minimal as automobile mileage is currently reported DDS when your car is first titled, renewed and each emissions/safety inspection. For commercial drivers, a variety of intelligent transportation systems, such as PrePass are available to the state to appropriately calculate the cost of commercial transportation on Georgia roads.

        • Raleigh says:

          Ok let’s play along for a second. Repeal the gas tax and switch to a mileage biased system. That 80,000lb truck that has a Georgia Tag pays for his mileage (usage tax) when he buys his tag. What if that truck has a Texas tag? How do they pay? What about the drivers from up north headed down to Florida on vacation? You going to stop them at the north border and charge them? (BTW that’s not a half bad idea for other reasons) Is it fair to take the entire burden away from out of state users? Now at least if out of state people buy fuel in Georgia they will pay a little. Now if your are talking about keeping the fuel tax AND a mileage tax, not no but HELL NO.

          • jbsimpson81 says:

            Only GA registered personal vehicles pay mileage when they register thier tags. Trucks pay via PrePass or other ITS every time they enter the state. Of course gas tax is eliminated. Phase in new system while you phase out old.

            Snowbirds and other personal vehicles from other states are exempt from tax, because Tourism.

            • Raleigh says:

              So you recommend imposing a state road tax on trucks registered in other states. That will go over big. Lets see state retaliation and more importantly lawsuits. No the use tax can’t work. Neither will giving snow birds a free pass putting all the burden on Georgia taxpayers… At least they pay some into state coffers with the fuel tax. The fuel tax is still the most fair way at this time unless of course you want a single pay system ran by the feds and we all know how fair that would be.

              • jbsimpson81 says:

                Charging trucks based on mileage is no different than a toll road. Toll roads are prevelant in the NE and in Florida, no law suits, no retailation.

                • Raleigh says:

                  No it’s very different, you have a choice if you wish to use a toll road and save time. Your not forced to use it. Apples and Oranges….

            • Dave Bearse says:

              Those with homes is in Chattanooga, Phenix City, Jacksonville, FL, North Augusta, or Anderson or any number of other burgs located just outside Georgia’s borders, and work or otherwise travel in Georgia routinely will be exempted too.

              You can bet that should state taxation generally shift to a mileage basis and be paid to the state of vehicle registration that states aren’t going to be too concerned about where the vehicle is legally garaged.

              • jbsimpson81 says:

                There are a lot of reasons to buy a house in a burb outside Georgia, but saving $8 per month (the amout the average driver pays in gas taxes) probably isn’t going to be one of them.

                • Dave Bearse says:

                  Agree. Simply saying it represents significant Georgia road usage by non-Georgians that will go completely untaxed if state and local transportation taxation is mileage based.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          The truck fueling up in another state isn’t a complete failure. A significant fraction of total motor fuel taxes are federal taxes that are distributed among all states irrespective of the state where purchased.

          Trailers tags are subject to apportionment. Some means of apportionment of other than the federal motor fuel tax could perhaps be devised.

          • jbsimpson81 says:

            This plan would only be for the state portion of the gas tax. The federal tax would remain. The federal share is approtioned to the states, but Georgia is a donor state, meaning we get less back from the Feds than we pay in to the total pot. Eliminating the state tax for a mileage system would make the gas in GA appear “cheap”. In fact, those living and working in Jacksonville, snow birds driving through and ever truckers who are gonna pay a mileage tax anyways and still need cheap gas may find it financially attractive to fill their trucks, cars and boats in GA rather than FL. That would ultimately (albeit very slightly) make GA less of a donor state.

        • George Chidi says:

          This isn’t entirely ridiculous. Theoretically, we could repeal the gas tax entirely and replace it with a once-a-year mileage tax at annual registration. That might make the hated registration fee slightly more palatable to the public.

          Except … it would almost immediately decimate the local trucking industry.

          Trucks that are registered here but haul goods around the country would be paying double — all the gas taxes they pay on the road plus all the mileage taxes for those roads outside of the state that show up on the odometer at tax time.

          Hypothetically, a trucker might show their weigh ins and ask for a write down for out-of-state travel. But that’s rife for being gamed. And Georgians who live here and work in other states — Ringgold, Chatham, Columbus — still get hit with the double whammy.

        • Will Durant says:

          No the straw man here is that trying to throw out the current method of collecting user fees that is already established and cutting a new one out of whole cloth would be a bureaucratic nightmare. Not so much if you are one of the bureaucrats however.

          You can’t do it by odometer readings when the only reason they are not tampered with more today is that the average individual doesn’t have enough incentive to do so. Oregon is experimenting with using GPS dongles for a Big Brother solution. That should go over well with the tin foil hat crowd.

          The fallacy in your argument that a light car should pay just as much per mile as a truck or SUV is that the weight of the vehicle does matter. If every vehicle on the highway was at 1200 pounds per axle the interstates would just have to be protected from erosion. The problem is that it isn’t a straight line on wear and tear when you add weight. The damage caused due to weight is an exponential curve. So regardless of environmental issues, which by the way, look at the EPA noise on a couple of the other posts here and realize that the metro area is still mandated to use the “California blend” in the warm months along with the emission testing. Encouraging more environmentally friendly vehicles is not just a warm and fuzzy, it is a mandate. It is justifiable for an SUV with a 5,000 pound curb weight to pay more in user fees than a 2,000 pound econobox. The most equitable way to do so is already in place as that SUV burns more gas and therefore pays a higher user fee.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      The proximity of states to each other is such that a major new funding mechanism that more fairly assesses transportation costs will likely need to be national in scope.

      A GOP Congress? I suppose they could take the Fair Tax approach and cut everyone’s taxes and raise as much or more revenue.

      A scheme developed by states resulting in a system to become national? Georgia was among the leaders in the development of Obamacore, and look how that is turning out.

  3. David C says:

    BREAKING NEWS: People who demagogue against any tax increase for entire election year suddenly surprised at difficulty raising needed funds through taxes.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      In response to the anti-tax comments made on the GOP representatives Facebook page to his/her question about motor fuel taxes, GaGOP; reap what you have sown.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Stop kidding. Newbies don’t know any better.

      I’ve only one vote, but I’ll cast it and exercise the very little influence available to me to oppose any existing or new tax revenues not firmly grounded in highway usage.

  4. Just Nasty and Mean says:

    Our Ga. state budget went from >$17B to <$22B in 4 years! What happened to those billions of dollars that came from the growth in the economy??
    Why not redirect those extra funds to transportation infrastructure and FORGET a tax increase of any kind?
    Also, electric vehicle users should pay a fee, AND the 4th penny going to the general fund should be sent to transportation. I have no problems with PPPs and bonded debt.

    But I will be one PO'ed Republican activist if the Joint Committee and legislature proposes a tax increase.

  5. Bill Dawers says:

    How are any of the funding methods under discussion better than the regional TSPLOSTs, where we at least knew what projects would be funded and the order in which they would be funded?

    • androidguybill says:

      The T-SPLOST failed largely because of rumors that the money would be redirected towards urban transit projects (i.e. MARTA and the Beltline) spread amongst people who have no idea that the city of Atlanta’s tax money is taken and given to other areas of the state and are convinced that it is the other way around. Basically, it failed because of 40 years of southern strategy politics (although I must admit that this Michael Brown/Eric Garner nonsense and demagoguery makes me more sympathetic to that crowd than I am normally wont to be). So the way to short circuit that is to focus on the funding now and delegate the project list to an unelected bureaucracy (i.e. the GDOT) to provide political cover.

    • blakeage80 says:

      The project list was poor in my region (5). It included a lot of bike lane installs and several airport improvements that were of dubious value to most people’s daily activities. The whole thing also created an ‘us vs them’ mentality when you proposed to tax a farmer in Comer to install a bike lane down Prince Ave. in Athens, a road down which he is very unlikely to ever bike.
      There is something in most American’s psyche that likes everything to be rolled up into one price. We don’t like being nickeled and dimed (or pennyed). We’d rather pay for it at one time and not have to think about it again. Just tell us how much and if we trust you, we’ll give you the money. In other words, I think we’ll be more OK with a raise in gas taxes or some other general use tax than something perceived as adding yet another penny tax. That being said, there are some people that will vote for a SPLOST every time because they are convinced (by whoever is pushing it) there is direct benefit for them and theirs whether or not its actually true.

      • Bill Dawers says:

        Discussing why TSPLOST failed is interesting — and these are both interesting responses — but neither really addresses my question. I supported the TSPLOST here in Savannah even though there were things I didn’t want to see on the list because I was convinced that state leaders had no better plan and would produce no better plan.

        So now it looks like taxes will go up, somehow, but we won’t likely won’t have ANY idea how much spending will be committed to the coastal region, and the governor and GDOT will likely prioritize different projects and in different orders than our own cumbersome but transparent local process did.

        • Will Durant says:

          I really don’t like the idea of taxing everything you purchase for the sake of roads and highways regardless of how much or even if you drive.

        • blakeage80 says:

          I see your point, Bill. From what I read, no one on PP has a complete suggestion. Any argument offered that the contributor believes is complete automatically gets filled with holes. So, you’re right. Nothing suggested here, in and of itself is really a more complete solution than TSPLOST. Georgians had a trust issue with TSPLOST creators and implementors. We haven’t really dealt with that point in this ongoing debate, I don’t think. So, the same folks are offering another fix. Has trust grown or will we just finally cry, “Uncle!”, praying our commutes and local economy get better? At this point, we don’t know what the legislature will finally vote on or what GDOT will actually do to fix anything or in what order. That probably contributes to the popularity of any transportation related post. However, I still think it’s better presented as one, statewide package instead of a series of local yet not so local taxes. The theme of this should be that better transportation better unifies Georgia.

  6. Rambler14 says:

    I hope that our “Joint Study Committee on Transportation Funding” isn’t delusional enough to think the 4th Penny is a solution. It’s a bandaid on gushing bloody head wound.

    Look at the solution they used in Virginia. GET OFF THE GAS TAX. Convert to a sales tax model.

  7. jiminga says:

    As in business, any capital investment must be self liquidating. If “transportation improvements” involve mass transit then user fees must pay for it. If those “improvements” involve road building than a proper case must be made for using tax dollars to pay for them, convincing taxpayers outside of the “improved” areas why they should pay for someone else’s benefits. This is going to be both interesting and fun to watch.

  8. Al Gray says:

    The lies coming out of the CSRA Region about TSPLOST and now proven with passage here are legion.

    1) Revenues were gutted more than expected by ‘tax reform’ and are structurally deficient by at least 10%. (i.e., Autos removed from the sales tax)
    2) The ‘base case’ scenario used by the propagandists included price escalation of 2% a year but bids for initial projects are running double that.
    3)The combined effects mean a $90 to $160 million bust and that the “band”/phase 3 projects won’t be built.
    4) Augusta gets 63% of the first band revenue (1st 40 months) so, if its projects cement in cost overruns, it decimates the Band 3 (last 40 months) for all counties in the region. $25 million of McDuffie County’s projects are in band 3. 85% of Lincoln County projects are in Band 3.
    5) The project list priority was changed to accelerate the Berckmans Road projects from Band 3 to Band 2 and a loan by the Augusta National accelerates construction of 1 of them into Band one with funds from Band 2 used to repay the borrowings. What this likely means is that the National’s projects which were unlikely to be funded as they appeared on the priority list approved by voters in Band 3 now are assured of funding ahead of all other projects in Band 3 regionally. (Augusta was allowed to swap projects around supposedly based upon cost neutrality.)
    6) Columbia County is a donor county who gave $25 million or so to entice other counties into the scam , but it has another $50 million now in Band 3 jeopardy, this after the county voted “NO!”
    7)DOT continued to demonstrate its capability of lying by putting out propaganda that told of early TSPLOST projects “successes” but failing to mention that much, or most, of the funds per project were from OTHER FUNDS previously allocated, not TIA/TSPLOST.
    8) Commissioners in counties with large Band 3 project spending continue to cite the “Guarantee” that their investment list projects will be funded by the state, but how likely is that since the rest of the state turned TSPLOST down? (Said “guarantee” isn’t in writing anywhere.)
    9) The inner city Augusta precincts who voted heavily for TSPLOST and furnished much of the margin for victory in the region saw their projects moved from Band 1 to Band 3 (won’t be built) when the Berckmans swap got done.
    10) The entire state needs to be informed of how more space for the 5th hole of a golf course became “Critical Transportation Infrastructure” on the way to three regions of the state now looking at double taxation with the advent of the gas tax to come.

    More specifically, every county commissioner in the other 9 regions needs to apologize to and hug every Anti-TSPLOST activist or voter they see.

    BTW, the promises that TSPLOST were not a bailout of DOT were quite a ruse.

    There is more lunacy in the POLITICS of this fiasco, but I am about typed out for now.

    These are the things I spoke of when I addressed Sen. Gooch’s and Rep. Robert’s committee. Gee, I don’t think they knew about the witches’ brew Augusta turns EVERYTHING into!

  9. saltycracker says:

    The more convoluted and complex a tax is the more regulation and regulators are needed and the less the public benefits. The latest nominee for this is “mileage tax”.

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