Roberts Previews Changes in Transportation Bill

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,

19 comments

      • xdog says:

        I’ve seen that figure posted here before. It seems extreme. I mean, 4000 pounds of car versus 80000 pounds of semi-trailer, 2 axles versus 5. Do you have a link explaining how that number is derived?

        • Will Durant says:

          Not finding it at the moment but I first encountered the figure several years ago in a Colorado Highway Department study for transporting some supersized loads of machinery or the like. The road/bridge damage is a function of an exponential curve on the loads per axle not a straight line according to bridge engineers I dealt with 40 years ago. They were engineering replacement bridges in South Georgia that had originally been constructed with insufficient footings for overloaded pulp wood trucks.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          Concrete pavement design and flexible asphalt pavement design differ. The 10,000 times more damage by maximum weight trucks is correct in certain circumstances (light duty concrete pavements and poor subgrades). Trucks typically do significantly less than 10,000 times the damage on most main road pavements, and very much less than 10,000 times the damage on heavy duty interstate pavements.

          There are many variables—type and depth of pavement, subgrade conditions, mix of vehicle loads, etc—that preclude hard and fast equivalency rules. Research that takes the most important variables into consideration has determined that truck motor fuel taxes, broadly speaking, equate to between 50% and 95% of pavement expenses over a mixture of types of roads (arterial, interstate, etc) of other than local roads.

          In metropolitan areas, and in many cases on rural highways, there are congestion and delay elements/costs to consider. Again many variables—highway horizontal (curves) and vertical (grade) alignment, traffic volume (general congestion) and traffic mix (cars vs. trucks and types of trucks) number of lanes, etc. Trucks are commonly equivalent to 2 to 7 passenger vehicles in the Georgia Piedmont.

      • saltycracker says:

        Don’t that, but they deliver about everything we consume. We can get by without electricity easier than trucks.

          • Will Durant says:

            But not taxing diesel sufficiently only subsidizes trucking even more than rail which for the most part in Georgia pays for their own infrastructure. The average car driving motor fuel purchaser is already subsidizing the delivery of necessities like food since the infrastructure would last decades longer if it only saw passenger car traffic.

            • Jon Richards says:

              But – each railroad company runs on its own tracks, which it maintains. In the main, CSX doesn’t run its trains on Norfolk Southern tracks. In the case of trucks, they share the public highways with everyone else.

              • Will Durant says:

                I think that was what I was trying to say. The railways pay for their own infrastructure and accordingly to my knowledge they don’t pay a state motor fuel tax. Trucking companies travel the public highways and in my opinion don’t pay enough for the privilege due to their excess wear and tear. In the freight wars the average car driver is subsidizing trucking.

                • saltycracker says:

                  Trucks also pay a highway use tax and we could go on but all we need to do is pay more for goods, right ?

                • Dave Bearse says:

                  I don’t think railroads pay a Georgia state motor fuel (diesel) tax, but there has been litigation between railroads and other states over other states taxation of motor fuel.

                  Note that railroad infrastructure costs include property taxes, not a factor for trucks using tax-free public roads. (In my opinion railroad property is often undervalued. That’s the result of a shallow market for hundred mile long hundred foot wide properties.)

              • Raleigh says:

                I think I would recheck that. Words like “railroad subsidies” comes to mind. In fact I think the golden spike at Promontory Point was even paid for by the Federal Government. At least indirectly if not directly.

                • Dave Bearse says:

                  It was common practice especially in the western US for the federal government to grant railroads property contingent on railroad construction, e.g. the railroads received some land adjoining their ROWs.

                  That may certainly be viewed as subsidy (but one that is long gone), but it was a win-win public-private partnership. The granted land was worth very little without transportation. The completion of a railroad increased the value of the (much greater quantities of) remaining land in excess of the value of the granted land when it was granted.

                  • Raleigh says:

                    Grants, subsidies and tax breaks are still issued and benefiting railroads today. I will add there is not one passenger ticked sold where taxpayers haven’t covered at least part of the cost. To you point of land being made more valuable by railroads the same can be said of roads and trucking which in recent years has had a much larger impact. The impact of roads can still be a large factor on land value while empty and abandoned rail road depots are it many small towns. Out west some of those small towns were also abandoned. Still Freight rail is a necessary mode but you still need trucks to get goods from the rail yard to the stores.

                    • Dave Bearse says:

                      I didn’t mean to suggest that passenger rail is not heavily subsidized. Passenger rail is in the low single digits of traffic on the general railroad system of North America.

                      My comments to this post were directed at freight—motor carrier vs railroad. I’m not dissing trucks as freight carriers, just pointing out their significant infrastructure subsidy.

                      FWIW, it’s local government that takes the biggest beating. Maximum weight trucks on light duty local road pavements are where the infrastructure subsidy is greatest.

          • Raleigh says:

            Whoa Salty, saying things like that around here will draw an attack by the rabid anti fair taxers…. now go sing the Tech fight song and sprinkle beer on your shoes for your penance…

    • benevolus says:

      To answer my own question:
      “The United States federal excise tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel.”
      State Georgia
      Gasoline tax (includes federal tax of 18.4¢/gal) 44.9
      Diesel tax (includes federal tax of 24.4¢/gal) 54.5

      So the feds tax diesel $.06 more per gallon, and the state taxes diesel $0.036 more per gallon.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_taxes_in_the_United_States

  1. Al Gray says:

    Do these guys have even a clue at the outrageous magnitude of the tax increase they are foisting on Georgians relative to the paltry wage increases their constituents are having to stretch to pay for necessities?

    If we use the figures in Rep. Caldwell’s excellent analysis and consider that the 8.1 cents local taxes now being collected on motor fuels don’t go away, but are transformed into motor fuel taxes and are replaced by higher local sales taxes on everything, then you get a 38% immediate increase in these taxes! (8.1 cents/21.1 cents) The damage doesn’t stop there, either! The original text called for the taxes to be adjusted for the increase in fuel efficiency, slated to increase 4.3% a year (CAFE standards) PLUS/MINUS the % change in a highway construction cost index. At a conservative 5% a year, where we started – at 21.1 cents – will grow to more than 45 cents in 10 years!!

    The starting point isn’t 29.2 cents in the bill, it is the 21.1 cents already collected at the state level that isn’t being redirected AND replaced. The 8.1 cents already collected locally gets transformed into the excise tax, but is being replaced, wherein comes the tax increase.

    The wages of Georgians have grown less than 2% a year over the most recently available decade.

    Somebody needs to plot all this out on a graph and post it. It is astounding. Things that increase like this, when added to the 14% TSPLOST (passed in 3 regions) tax increase, the Georgia Power SB 31 atrocity that is also in double digits, and property taxes are destroying the middle class.

    This one is a triple-digit tax increase over 10 years.

    OK, legislators, exactly where and how will your constituents, the economically brutalized people of Georgia, come up with the money out of their household budgets to pay this latest outrage from you?

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