Huge transportation budget gap could lead to new taxes

Huge transportation budget gap could lead to new taxes

ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Speaker of the House David Ralston all said Tuesday they support a massive increase in funding for transportation projects. They did not say where that money should come from.

It could be the most difficult and hotly-debated issue at the state capitol this year, but lawmakers agree they can't put off dealing with it. "No, no, no. Not anymore. We've put it off long enough, and we can't do it any longer," said Sen. Freddie Powell Sims.

A just-released state study says Georgia needs to increase funding by $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year just to maintain current roads and bridges, plus several billion dollars more for new projects. Rep. Ed Rynders said Georgia simply doesn't take in enough money to take care of its growing infrastructure. "We're 23 in the country in road spending, but 49 in road taxation," Rynders said.

That has a lot of people talking about new taxes, and talk of new taxes makes many politicians nervous. Rynders said, "I think what you'll see is probably some kind of combination between retail taxes and the motor fuel tax. My hope is that we offset that with a decrease in the personal income tax."

Many other lawmakers agree that if the only way to bridge the transportation funding gap is through new taxes or fees, they'll have to find a way to lower other taxes. Rep. Mike Cheokas said, "I would think that whatever final proposal we make is going to be tax neutral."

Suggestions from that study committee include higher gas taxes, a fee on electric cars and a statewide 1% transportation sales tax, but leaders have not endorsed any of those ideas.

Copyright 2015 WALB. All rights reserved.