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State senators make big changes to transportation bill
Committee recommends excise tax of 24 cents per gallon
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The state Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday made significant changes to a transportation bill approved by House lawmakers earlier this year.

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he expects the bill to make it to the floor of the Senate for a vote by Friday.

The committee approved the Senate’s version of the bill, which would convert Georgia’s mix of taxes on gasoline to a 24-cent per gallon excise tax instead of the 29.2 cents per gallon tax in the House plan.

Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gainesville, said he voted against the House plan precisely because an amendment failed that would have set the excise tax at 24 cents.

Dunahoo added that his views on the bill are more in line with the Senate version, though he wants to ensure excise taxes on diesel fuel are reduced, as well.

The Senate plan also creates a $5 fee on rental cars, a $25 “highway user” fee and takes $250 million annually from the state’s general fund to pay off debt service owed by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“We should not be acquiring debt for future generations,” Miller said, adding that paying it down is one of the best aspects of the Senate funding plan.

The House plan, meanwhile, applies annual fees on electric cars. It also ends the state’s $5,000 tax credit on the purchase of such vehicles.

The Senate bill also would end Georgia’s sales tax holiday for back-to-school purchases.

“We anticipated all kind of different changes,” said Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville. “That’s not unusual.”

Rogers said he expects the House to make additional changes to whatever plan the Senate ultimately passes before the two chambers hash out a compromise in conference committee.

Republican leaders have said Georgia needs at least $1 billion or more annually to maintain roads and bridges, and perhaps as much as $1.5 billion.

The House version raises just $900 million.

Miller said the Senate version would bump that figure up to about $1.1 billion.

“I like what it does,” he added. “It gets us to the numbers we need to get to.”

The legislative session ends April 2.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.