Georgia special session addresses fuel, transportation tax issues

| Monday, August 22, 2011

Week two of a special session at the Georgia statehouse began Monday, Aug. 22. Issues expected to be discussed by lawmakers include ratifying a freeze in the tax collected on fuel purchases and moving a proposed transportation tax vote.

Georgia’s fuel tax is a two-part tax. A 4 percent portion of the tax is calculated twice per year and is based on the average price per gallon of fuel in the state at the time. The rate can change every six months on Jan. 1 and July 1.

Gov. Nathan Deal decided in June to freeze the state’s fuel taxes to help consumers avoid more pain at the pump. The tax rates were slated to increase the first of July.

As required by state law, lawmakers must ratify the freeze through passage of a bill – HB2EX.

House lawmakers voted Thursday, Aug. 18, to sign off on the governor’s action. The bill has advanced to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration before it moves to the chamber floor.

Not collecting the tax is expected to cost the state an estimated $40 million in revenue that would have been used for roads. There has not been any indication how the state will make up for the lost revenue.

This marks the third time in six years the state’s taxes on fuel have been frozen. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue acted to keep the tax rates the same in the summer of 2008 and for one month in the fall of 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.

Also moving through the statehouse is a bill sought by Deal – HB3EX – to move planned votes on regional transportation referendums.

The referendums would add a 1-cent sales tax to pay for transportation projects. The governor wants to push back votes from the 2012 presidential primary ballot on July 31 to the Nov. 6 general election.

Deal said the move would encourage participation because voters typically show up in greater numbers for a general election.

Voters in each of the state’s 12 regions will cast ballots on referendums for a predetermined list of road, bridge and transit projects.

Details on the proposed projects for the 10-county Atlanta region were recently unveiled. The 1-cent sales tax increase sought would raise an estimated $7.2 billion. A little more than $6 billion would be used on a list of more than 100 projects of regional significance.

The rest of the Atlanta-area money could be spent by counties and cities on various transportation projects.

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

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