Thursday, August 14, 2014

Funding Transportation in Georgia

Two thousand years ago there was a thriving commercial center and port on the coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) called Ephesus. In order to maintain its viability, the port had to be regularly dredged of silt deposits washed in by the Cayster River. Over time, however, the Ephesian government lost the will to maintain its port’s infrastructure, and, as it turned to marshland, the once mighty commercial center withered into ancient ruins.

Transportation has been at the heart of Atlanta’s progress since its creation. In the 19th Century, that meant railroads. In the 20th Century it meant the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The question before us now is how to upgrade our transportation infrastructure to meet our growing needs created by our earlier successes, because urban areas – even historically great ones like Ephesus or Metro Atlanta – are perpetually either in a period of growth and greater prosperity or steady decline.  There is no standing still.  Either we meet the infrastructure needs of our community or we slowly wither and die.

Last week was the opening hearing for the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Funding Infrastructure for Georgia. As an appointed member of the committee, I want to keep you informed as to its progress.

To that end, here are 10 sobering facts that came out of our first hearing in Atlanta:

1. The Georgia Department of Transportation’s revenue sources for FY2015 were approximately $1 billion from our state motor fuel tax and $1.2 billion from the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

2. Georgia ranks 49th in the nation in per capita spending on transportation.

3. Georgia presently receives back from the federal government $1.14 for every dollar we pay into Federal Highway Trust Fund.

4. Fuel taxes paid in Georgia consist of 18.4 cents per gallon in federal taxes and 7.5 cents per gallon in state taxes.

5. In addition, consumers pay 4% sales tax on gasoline. Three quarters of that tax goes directly to transportation while the fourth penny goes into the state general fund to be spent on other things. This one penny diversion equals $180 million per year on average.

6. A Georgia driver with a vehicle that gets on average 24 miles per gallon and travels 12,000 miles per year will pay approximately $85 in state taxes.

7. The average driver in Metro Atlanta waste between $900 and $1100 per year on gasoline sitting in traffic because of congestion.

8. Our reliance on fuel taxes as a principle means of paying for transportation improvements will be increasingly tenuous in coming years as cars become more fuel efficient and the number of electric cars increases.

9. Likewise, given the gridlock in Washington and the rising federal deficit, our reliance on federal funds for transportation is also precarious down the road.

10. Georgia’s Statewide Transportation Plan for 2005-2035 has an estimated cost of $160 billion. Total expected available transportation dollars based on present revenue resources is estimated at $86 billion over this same period of time leaving a funding gap of $74 billion.

The tentative schedule for the remaining transportation funding hearings around the state is as follows:

August 18, 2014                         Columbus
September 2, 2014                     Tifton
September 3, 2014                     Macon
September 30, 2014                   Augusta
October 1, 2014                         Savannah
October 28, 2014                       Rome
October 29, 2014                       Blue Ridge

- Edward Lindsey

Background (PR)

On July 2, 2014, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) announced the appointment of State Representative Edward Lindsey (R- Atlanta) as a citizen member to the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding. As a result, Rep. Lindsey resigned from the Georgia General Assembly to accept the position.

“It has been an honor to represent the Buckhead, Brookhaven, and Sandy Springs communities for nearly ten years,” said Rep. Lindsey. “From my years under the Gold Dome, I understand that long term transportation infrastructure demands are one of the most pressing concerns for my district. Therefore, I believe my time can best be spent in the next few months serving on this joint study committee.”

Because Rep. Lindsey is not standing for re-election in November and his duties from the second regular session of the 2013-2014 General Assembly are complete, the resignation will not require a special election. State Representative Joe Wilkinson (R-Atlanta) and his office will handle any constituent services needed by the citizens of District 54 for the remainder of 2014.

“I commend Edward for his decade of service to House District 54,” said House Speaker David Ralston. “I am grateful he is willing to continue his service to the state in this new role. The work of this committee will shape how we address transportation funding as a state, and I know his efforts will make an important difference in the work of this committee.”

The Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding, created by House Resolution 1573, is charged with identifying new sources and methods of funding for critical transportation infrastructure needs. The 16-member subcommittee will work in the interim leading up to the 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly.

For more information on HR 1573, please click here.

Penny Extra for T-SPLOST in Augusta is Being Scrutinized  

One year ago Georgia voters went to the polls to cast their ballots and decide the fate of the state’s Transportation Investment Act (TIA). The act allowed each of the state’s 13 regions to decide whether to implement an additional penny sales tax for transportation, which was commonly referred to as T-SPLOST. 

Only three regions voted in favor: the Heart of Georgia, which is south of Macon, the River Valley, which includes Columbus, and the Central Savannah River Area, which includes Augusta Richmond County. 

Some, however, did not believe TSPLOST was an effective way to address the state’s transportation concerns. Many voters were concerned that the tax revenues would not be handled responsibly by the state. Al Gray, a taxpayer watchdog, is questioning the projects and the funds. 
Click the video to watch.

1 comment:

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