“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.” – Excerpt from President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena”
The Georgia General Assembly’s Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding recently published its findings calling for an increase in annual transportation spending of $1 to $1.5 billion. In doing so, it recognized that a strong transportation infrastructure lies at the heart of our state’s future success and we ignore its present weaknesses at our peril.
In response, the Georgia House leadership has placed on the table its transportation plan and the long knives of opponents have quickly emerged. An alphabet soup of organizations are already cranking out their calls to respective members to oppose the plan including GSBA (Georgia School Board Association), GMA (Georgia Municipal Association), ACCG (Association of County Commission of Georgia), and, of course, the usual assortment of naysayer organizations who can collectively be labeled by the acronym CAVE (Committees Against Virtually Everything).
These organizations so far have one thing in common: they denounce the House Leadership plan on the table but offer few, if any, viable alternatives despite the fact that our transportation woes endanger our safety, dampen our quality of life, and impede our economic development. It is time for these organizations to understand:
- Since almost half our roads and bridges are rated in fair or poor condition, this means our school children are riding on unsafe roads;
- Our city residents’ are stuck in some of the worst commutes in the country;
- Our economy in every county suffers without a strong transportation network when businesses cannot get the goods, customers, and employees they need to grow and prosper; and
- While government should not try to do everything, there are a few things it must do well – like transportation – and that cost money.
The Georgia House Leadership plan does the following:
- Phases out the practice of allowing the state and local governments from diverting sales taxes collected on gasoline to their general funds for spending on non transportation items. This practice has crippled our ability to meet our transportation needs. Approximately $180 million in state gasoline taxes and $500 million in local gasoline taxes are diverted into state and local general funds each year and not directed exclusively to transportation. It is time for gas taxes to be viewed as a user fee and devoted exclusively to transportation.
- Abolishes sales taxes on gasoline and replaces it with an excise tax that under our constitution must be used exclusively for transportation purposes. This provides security against future elected officials jeopardizing our long term transportation needs by siphoning off money for their short term pet projects.
- Devotes $100 million in bonds to mass transit which is the state government’s first major investment in this vital part of our transportation needs.
- Provides local governments with the ability to directly raise money for local transportation needs.
- Imposes a $200 user fee on alternative fuel vehicles ($300 for commercial vehicles) to insure that these vehicle owners also pay their fair share toward transportation.
This plan is not perfect – few proposals ever are – and constructive criticism and debate at this point is valid and necessary in developing the right transportation plan for our state. Therefore, it is time for GSBA, GMA, ACCG, CAVE, and others to offer more than “just say no” criticisms and offer meaningful alternatives if they do not like the one presently offered.
In short, we need at this moment a lot more women and men leaders who dare to enter President Roosevelt’s arena and “actually strive to do the deeds” needed to protect our future, and few less mindless critics who are merely “cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Edward Lindsey is a former Georgia State Legislator and Republican House Majority Whip. He recently served as a citizen member of the General Assembly’s Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding.
While several County Commission Chairmen and members have come out in opposition to the House Leadership transportation proposal, ACCG has corrected previous information I received and presently has only a neutral position. I spoke with a representative of ACCG and he vowed that ACCG would come to the table with viable alternatives to their objections. I applaud ACCG for this pledge and look forward to hearing its alternatives.