The Joint Study Committee established last spring to examine options for funding transportation in Georgia has releaseed its final report, which finds that the Peach State needs a minimum of $1 billion to $1.5 billion in new transportation spending to provide for enhanced interstate capacity, maintenance of roads and bridges, reduce congestion in the state’s metro areas, increase the air cargo capacity of Hartsfield Jackson Airport, and provide multi-modal transportation options.
The committee does not make a specific recommendation for how the funds should be raised, but does lay out several possibilities. They include:
- Converting the current four percent sales tax on gasoline to an excise tax. The result would be a fuel tax between 22 and 25 cxents per gallon, and would have the result of eliminating the “fourth penny” going to the general fund. If the sales tax is not converted to an excise tax, then move between $180 and $185 million of the “fourth penny” sales tax revenue to the general fund.
- Increasing the motor fuel tax. The report notes that a 10 cent per gallon increase would generate around $600 million annually.
- Providing a way to periodically increase the excise tax to maintain its purchasing power. This could be via the inflation rate, or some other method.
- Implementing a one cent sales tax statewide, which would generate about $1.4 billion annually.
- Establishing an annual fee for electric cars and trucks, likely around $200 for private vehicles and $300 for commercial vehicles.
- Long term, determining how to eliminate the use of state and local sales taxes on gasoline sales for purposes other than transportation.
- Establishing a schedule to pay the DOT’s indebtedness of approximately $3.6 billion from the state’s general fund.
- Recapitalizing the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank in such a way that local governments would be encouraged to provide matching funding for transportation projects.
- Developing new toll or managed lane networks.
- Providing for an investment in transit systems, possibly including the repeal of MARTA’s requirement to spend 50% of its revenue on capital projects. It also recomments a separate funding stream for transit.
There is a lot in the 23 page report, including comparisons of transportation spending in Georgia to other states, and a look at how current funding is being used. It can be downloaded here, or viewed below the fold.
In a story behind the AJC paywall, Michael L. Sullivan, Chairman of the Georgia Transportation Alliance is quoted as saying,
“[T]here is no silver bullet.
“When you’re looking at a funding challenge of this magnitude, the idea that there is one solution that is going to solve that problem in one fell swoop is unreasonable,” Sullivan, who is also president of the Georgia chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies, said.
The report provides plenty of information to digest, and will likely be the focus of legislators when they meet starting January 12th. They will need to decide which, if any, of the committee’s recommendations to adopt, and whether the need to provide additional funding to maintain and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure outweighs the natural inclination by the GOP not to increase taxes.
Note: This post has been updated to reflect the release of the final Study Committee Report.