The entire House Transportation Committee met for the first time on Thursday in order to consider HR 170, the Transportation Funding Act. The committee heard a presentation on the bill from Chairman Jay Roberts, and then heard testimony from other organizations, but did not take a vote on the measure.
One of those testifying before the committee was Julianne Thompson, a Republican political grassroots activist who helped found the Atlanta Tea Party, although she is no longer affiliated with that organization. She opposed the 2012 TSPLOST, but promised after the vote to come to the table and support a solution. She indicated her support for the bill.
Less happy with the bill as it stands was Neill Herring with the Atlanta Sierra Club. Herring was disappointed there was no dedicated funding for transit, and wants to see constitutional amendment that would mandate some funding for that purpose. Herring also felt that the $200 tax on electric vehicles was too high, saying that amount of money was the equivalent of a car that had very low gas mileage.
Also testifying was Ed Crowell of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association, who objected to the indexing feature of the proposed excise tax, noting that because funding would increase automatically, it was likely that costs would rise in tandem. Crowell also said that estimated additional revenue of $60 million from truckers purchasing diesel fuel in the state wouldn’t occur unless sales taxes were eliminated completely from diesel fuel. As it stands now, local sales taxes will continue through at least 2020, or until they expire.
The Georgia Municipal Association offered a proposal that would increase the rate of local sales taxes, including LOSTs and SPOSTs to make up for the loss of revenue from gasoline sales. The new rate would be approximately 1.15%. The organization would also like to see modifications to the Transportation Investment Act to allow fractional TSPLOSTs in smaller areas, such as only a few counties. A summary of their proposal is below the fold.
Others spoke for and against the proposal, including several representatives of health organizations, who said that raising the cigarette tax by $1.23 per pack would raise around $450 million annually for transportation, and would also bring the Peach State to parity with the cost of cigarettes elsewhere in the country.
The committee will meet again next week to further consider the bill. Chairman Roberts indicated he hoped a solution could be found to help school districts, which would lose funding once their current ESPLOSTs and ELOSTs. Chairman Roberts is also waiting to see a fiscal note that will tell how much revenue would be raised.
As one committee member told me as we rode an elevator to the third floor of the capitol, it could be a while before the bill emerges from committee.
This post has been updated.