The Highway Regulations subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee met this afternoon to consider another substitute to House Bill 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015. Changes to the bill from its previous version include terminating the $5,000 tax credit for electric vehicles, changing the way counties could charge excise taxes to replace LOST revenue they will lose, and allowing county excise taxes to be used to repay transportation bond debt. No changes were proposed to the 29.2 cent proposed state excise tax rate.
Transportation Committee chairman Jay Roberts outlined the proposed changes to a packed hearing room. Instead of allowing cities and counties each to institute a three cent excise tax by a vote of their governing body, plus another three cents each if approved by citizen referendum, the new proposal allows county commissioners the ability to vote in a six cent countywide gasoline excise tax, which would be split with the cities according to the existing Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) formula, which is based on centerline miles of local roadway within the county or city.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Chairman Roberts stated that he thought this should ease concerns by counties and cities, noting that a six cent excise tax plus additional LMIG funding from the state, plus the ability to move transportation from a county’s existing budget to the excise tax should make up for the loss of revenue from a gasoline sales tax. And, Roberts stated his guiding principle that he was not going to allow sales tax on fuel not to be used for transportation purposes. On whether the proposed statewide excise tax rate of 29.2 cents per gallon would hold Roberts said that he was waiting on the fiscal note, which will describe the amount of money the bill is expected to raise.
By placing the elimination of the $5,000 state tax credit for the purchase or lease of an electric vehicle to the funding bill, the reduction in tax expenditures can provide additional transportation revenue. The change to allow transportation bond repayment as a legitimate use of local excise taxes benefits Forsyth County, which passed a $200 million bond in November that will widen Georgia 400 in that county.
Also speaking at the meeting were representatives from the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, along with several education funding advocates who were concerned about the loss of revenue they would see; something that couldn’t be made up with an excise tax.
In the end, the subcommittee voted to send the bill with a Do Pass recommendation to the full committee, which will meet at 2 PM on Thursday to consider it.