Georgia House leaders have announced a plan they say funnels $1 billion toward the state's transportation needs.
The strategy announced Wednesday includes eliminating a fuel sales tax. That money would be replaced by a dedicated excise tax of 29.2 cents per gallon.
The plan also creates new fees on electric or alternative fuel vehicles and gives mass transit systems access to $100 million in bonds for 2016.
A study committee included an increase to the gas tax in lawmakers' options. But some lawmakers have said they’re unwilling to support any new taxes or fees.
Republican Rep. Jay Roberts of Ocilla plans to introduce the bill on Thursday.
He and House Speaker David Ralston say the proposal is a starting point for a legislative debate on transportation.
Gov. Nathan Deal agreed with that sentiment.
“The release of a transportation bill is a positive step forward in the process of delivering for Georgians the transportation improvements we desperately need,” he said in a prepared statement..
“There’s still a long way to go as the plan winds through the General Assembly, but we now have a starting point and something to build on. We know what our challenges are – they are well documented – and we’re now working toward the solutions.
“I am committed this year to passing legislation that will provide for Georgia the transportation infrastructure it needs to keep our people and goods moving efficiently throughout the state for the next generation.”
The study committee’s report says the state will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion annual transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive.
Roberts served as the committee’s chairman, along with Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, who couldn’t be reached for immediate comment.
In an earlier interview, Gooch said he believes there’s about $200 million squirreled away in the state’s general fund that can help boost transportation.
Out of the 7 percent sales tax generally levied on gas in Georgia, 4 percent goes to the state and 3 percent to local governments. From the 4 percent, 3 percent goes to the Georgia Department of Transportation, but “the fourth penny has been going to the general fund,” Gooch said.
“My No. 1 goal this year is to find that fourth penny and get it out of the budget,” he said. “We need to move it back to where it belongs and that’s with the DOT.”
Gooch also has said, “I think this (issue) is going to require a whole lot of debate and discussion among the House and Senate (members) and the governor to decide where and when we bite the bullet.”
Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, praised plans to introduce the legislation.
“Georgia’s economic success has long relied upon our position as a transportation and logistics hub and our ability to safely and reliably move both people and goods,” he said in a statement.
“As we work to continue to grow our economy, create jobs and improve our quality of life, addressing our current and future transportation infrastructure funding needs is critical.”