Georgia House Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts previewed at a public hearing sponsored by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus the three changes in House Bill 170 that he plans to present to the committee when it meets on Wednesday. The changes, which are designed to address concerns of the Association of County Commissioners and the Georgia Municipal Association, come after the Rules Committee sent the bill back to Transportation this morning because it didn’t want the amendments made in Rules.
The first change concerns LOST, ELOST, HOST and MOST taxes. In the previous version of the bill, these taxes would have stopped being charged on motor fuel on July 1, 2015 in exchange for a quarter point increase in the rate charged on all other purchases. In the new version, the switchover date becomes July 1, 2016, a year later than earlier proposed.
The second change involves SPLOST and ESPLOST taxes. In the previous version of the bill, those taxes would have been allowed to be charged on gasoline purchases, but not diesel fuel. The change allows the tax to be charged on diesel, a major concern for some counties like Butts, which gains much of its sales tax revenue from a truck stop on I-75. The plans for increased transportation funding call for an additional $60 million to be raised because of a switchover from sales to excise taxes on fuel purchased by trucks. Roberts states he doesn’t think that county sales taxes like SPLOSTs will affect what the state will bring in through the IFTA agreement on truck fuel sales.
The final change has to do with how level one funds derived from SPLOST taxes are allocated between cities and counties. In the previous version of the bill, transportation projects would have been considered Level One projects, a high priority. In the new version, they will not be, with the assumption that there will be sufficient funding of local transportation with LOST and SPLOST funds without the extra incentive.
Roberts hopes the Transportation Committee will approve the changes Wednesday and send the bill to the Rules Committee for quick approval and a presentation to the entire House next week. He seems fairly confident that the House will approve the bill, saying that the bill did not pass through Rules last Friday because of the pending changes being made tomorrow, rather than a whip count indicating the bill would not passed. When asked if he agreed with Speaker David Ralston’s statement at Monday’s press conference that support among members of the House began to turn around last Thursday, he agreed.
The Transportation Committee is scheduled to meet at 3 PM Wednesday at 506 Coverdell Office Building, assuming the weather permits,