Georgia bills seek to transform transportation funding

| 4/22/2008

A number of efforts were offered throughout the Georgia General Assembly this year that sought to boost transportation funding. Several bills were intended to help ease a $7.7 billion transportation funding shortfall in the state.

Although many bills failed in the state’s House and Senate before the regular session adjourned, three bills of note were approved in both chambers.

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the first bill, which will aid road and bridge work through the creation of the state-run Georgia Infrastructure Bank. The new law, previously HB1019, uses federal highway dollars, state funds appropriated by the General Assembly, and other means to fund the bank.

The bank will be governed by the State Road and Tollway Authority. Low-interest loans will be made to communities for constructing and improving roads and bridges.

Supporters said it will allow communities to complete projects more quickly. Before signing the bill into law, Perdue proposed $50 million to start up the bank, the Americus Times-Recorder reported.

The state’s fiscal year 2009 budget also includes $28 million for the bank.

A separate effort that cleared the Senate and House urges the Georgia Department of Transportation to establish a statewide transportation plan that would incorporate all methods possible to improve the road and bridge network. The Senate resolution – SR781 – would include new roads, public-private partnerships, transit systems and high-occupancy toll lanes.

One more bill that is headed to Perdue’s desk – SB417 – would require GDOT to develop and publish benchmarks and issue reports on projects with price tags exceeding $10 million.

Among the legislation that failed to clear the two chambers was an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that sought to allow a county or groups of counties to put before voters a question as to whether to levy an additional 1 percent sales tax for highway and transit projects.

A competing effort that also died would have asked voters to approve a 1 percent statewide sales tax dedicated to transportation projects.

One other failed effort – SB410 – sought to create a congestion relief fund. The State Road and Tollway Authority would have overseen the fund and provided matching loans for community traffic congestion relief projects.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Georgia, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor