Georgia lawsuit seeks to protect fuel tax revenue

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/1/2015

Trucking interests in Georgia have taken action to help ensure that fuel tax revenues are routed to roads.

The Georgia Motor Trucking Association, J&M Tank Lines, F&W Transportation and Prolan Logistics have filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of motor carriers throughout the state. The plaintiffs say in their suit against the Georgia Department of Revenue and Commissioner Lynette T. Riley that cities and counties violate the constitutional rights of taxpayers by using proceeds from fuel tax sales for anything other than transportation.

State law provides that fuel taxes are solely to be used for road infrastructure.

The suit follows a law in effect since July 1 that allows local governments to continue to charge a 1 percent fuel sales tax. The additional tax revenue of up to 15 cents per gallon can be used for purposes not related to road work.

Previously HB170, the new law is a $900 million-per-year transportation funding plan. It includes an overhaul for how the state collects tax on fuel purchases.

Gone is the state’s two-part tax that included a percentage portion calculated twice annually and in its place is a pure excise tax rate. For truckers, the change equates to a 29-cent-per-gallon rate while motorists are charged at a 26-cent rate.

Attorney W. Pitts Carr, the truckers’ attorney, wrote in the filed motion that it is illegal to apply the sales tax revenue for purposes not related to roads and bridges.

The complaint filed states that the new law does not restrict how the revenue can be distributed, which opens the door to violations to existing rules. The plaintiffs want the courts to require the state to implement restrictions on how the new tax revenue can be used.
OOIDA advocates for ensuring that tax revenue from truckers and other highway users is used to benefit transportation purposes.

“If we are to truly address our road and bridge needs, diverting transportation dollars to non-transportation projects and programs must stop,” said Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs. “I can’t say whether or not Georgia’s revenue diversion is unconstitutional, but I think the majority of truckers would agree that the diversion is bad policy.”

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