Paying for roads could be the biggest issue in 2015.
With no future guarantees about federal aid, Georgia — like other states across the country — is looking at ways to raise new revenues to fund transportation.
The issue isn’t so much the condition of Georgia’s roads and bridges as the growing number of vehicles pounding the pavement. With the population surging past 10 million and Georgia now the eighth most populous state, congestion is a major concern.
Lawmakers and Gov. Nathan Deal likely will scour suggestions poured out in a 23-page report issued last month by the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding.
Among the suggestions are a 1-cent statewide sales tax that would generate some $1.4 billion per year; increasing Georgia’s motor fuel tax, which has not been increased since 1971; and establishing an annual road usage fee for alternative fuel vehicles.
In its report, the committee says the state will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion annual transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive.
The committee also suggests investing in mass transit, moving about $180 million annually from the state’s general fund into transportation, indexing gas taxes to inflation or the cost of fuel and adding new toll lanes.
Democrats, who are the minority party in both legislative chambers, have pushed to include transit in the transportation discussion.
The committee’s report urged lawmakers to acknowledge mass transit is “critical” in urban areas and suggested a “separate, permanent” funding source for transit systems around the state.
Other topics coming up in the 2015 legislature