With transportation funding being a huge issue during the ongoing legislative session, it warrants a close look at the Governor’s proposed FY 2016 Program Budget for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).
A first glance at page 394 of the FY 2016 Budget shows that the State General Funds portion of the GDOT budget has been reduced by more than $5 million. A closer look into the spending component shows reduction is accounted for by the elimination of the Airport Aid grant program in the “Intermodal” section of the budget because of the reduction in matching federal funds.
On the other hand, the table on page 394 indicates an increase of the State’s Motor Fuels Funds by almost $17.5 million. This expected increase in revenue allow additional spending on the I-285 / GA 400 Interchange project ($5.92 million), quick response contracts ($3.9 million) and traffic management & control projects ($2 million). The proposed budget also provides for GDOT employee retention and recruitment initiatives extended to employees of other agencies as well.
On an overall basis, the proposed budget consists of a net increase of $12,189,768 to boost the state’s share of the $2.5 billion GDOT budget to $876,295,966. No change is anticipated in the federal contribution to the transportation budget. While this $12 million increase is meaningful, one could argue that it is also minuscule compared to the estimated $1.5 billion Georgia would need to expand its funding for various GDOT projects. At a time when finding new sources for transportation funding is seen as a key issue, it could surprise some to see the budget propose little to no significant budget increases in transportation. This could primarily be in anticipation of the Joint Study Committee on Transportation’s recommendations.
With a new Commissioner at the helm of GDOT, better knowledge of public opinion, and the General Assembly hard at work to figure out alternative solutions to fund our transportation needs, the next few weeks will reveal what ultimately unfolds in this intriguing debate.