Georgia transportation funding deal could be near

| 9/8/2009

In hopes of curbing traffic congestion, Georgia legislative leaders have been working out the details of a funding plan that would let residents vote to tax themselves to pay for needed transportation improvements.

Getting transportation funding legislation through the statehouse has been difficult the past few years. The Georgia House and Senate have been divided on how to come up with the money to pay for roadwork.

During the 2009 regular session the Senate voted to allow counties to vote to form regions to plan and finance highway and transit projects in their communities. Residents could have voted whether to increase their local sales tax by a penny.

House lawmakers were in favor of a plan to ask voters to approve a one-cent statewide sales tax for roads and transit.

Neither chamber has been willing to give in on the issue, which has prevented progress on funding transportation projects. But there soon could be a compromise that could be approved in time for the 2010 elections.

According to a report in the Macon Telegraph, leading lawmakers may be willing to merge the two proposals. The result could be a plan to ask voters to authorize a half-cent statewide tax for state-determined projects, and also ask voters to allow single counties, or groups of counties, to implement a half-cent sales tax for local or regional projects.

Georgia now has a 4-cent sales tax.

Supporters of the compromise funding proposal say it would aid rural parts of the state get roadwork done, while giving metro areas the opportunity to pursue alternative strategies.

The General Assembly, which is led by Republicans, can take up transportation funding options once the regular session convenes in mid January. There is increased urgency for lawmakers to strike a deal before their seats are on the ballot in November 2010.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Georgia in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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