Transportation Panel Will Unveil Recommendations Today … Here’s What They Are
By Dick Pettys
(1/30/08) Torn between those who argue for a statewide sales tax increase to fund transportation needs and those who want a regional, local option approach, a special committee that spent the summer hearing from Georgians will recommend both today in a report to be unveiled at a Capitol news conference.
The report of the Joint Study Committee on Transportation Funding will recommend:
* Allowing citizens to vote on a Constitutional amendment ranging from one that is revenue-neutral, in which the increasingly undependable 7.5 cents per gallon tax is replaced with an equivalent sales and use tax, to one that generates a larger amount of money through an additional 1 percent sales tax on all goods and services.
* Allowing counties to join as a region to hold a referendum to pass a maximum one-cent sales tax for transportation projects.
The report points out that committee members did not agree on all aspects of the recommendations, as apparently made clear by the panel‚s decision to recommend both and not choose between them. But it says that „a general consensus in principle was reached by the overall committee as a whole.‰
Regardless of whether there was absolute unanimity, the report is important because it constitutes the first time in many years that a group of this importance (it was co-chaired by the House and Senate transportation committee chairman) has endorsed a new funding mechanism for transportation.
The report includes a host of other recommendations, including:
* Creation of a state infrastructure bank, already proposed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, to provide loans and credit enhancements to local governments for transportation facilities. The committee report suggests such loans and credits also should be made available to private entities.
* Increased use of the design-build approach, in which one contractor is responsible for a particular project from start to finish, as opposed to having one firm design the project and another build it. The idea is that design-build produces cost and time efficiencies.
* Approval every five years by the General Assembly of a statewide transportation plan, and inclusion within the plan of mass transit programs.
* Support for construction of a MagLev train like those in operation in Germany and Shanghai, from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.
* Serious consideration of converting existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes to allow faster travel for those who want to pay a little more, and to generate the funds for that and other projects.
* Redefining the roles and lines of authority of the multiplicity of state and regional areas that have responsibility for transportation in an effort to make sense of the alphabet soup and allow the agencies to better do their jobs.
Signing the report from the Senate were Sen. Jeff Mullis, the co-chairman, Sen. Chip Pearson, Sen. Doug Stoner, Sen. Tommie Williams and Sen. Valencia Seay. Signing for the House were Rep. Vance Smith, the co-chairman, Rep. James Mills, Rep. Jay Shaw, Rep. Donna Sheldon and Rep. Mark Hamilton.
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