Congressional line in the sand: Metro Atlanta’s proposed transportation sales tax may be bolstered by fewer federal dollars
By David Pendered
Metro Atlanta’s plans to use federal funding in addition to revenues from the proposed 1 percent sales tax for transportation were thrown into jeopardy Friday.
The chairman of the House Transportation Committee said he will not compromise on the spending plan he submitted last month, according to a report in the Aug. 6 edition of The Wall Street Journal. Click here to see the story. The budget proposal would cut current spending levels by about a third, according to some reports.
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said he will fight as vigorously for the proposed cuts in the transportation budget as he did against certain spending in the battle that shut down the Federal Aviation Administration.
Mica was at the center of the battle over FAA funding. In the bill signed into law Friday by President Obama, Republicans won the elimination of about $16.5 million in air service subsidies to 13 rural communities, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Mica is pressing for a six-year highway bill, according to The Wall Street Journal. He intends to ensure that federal spending does not exceed about $34 billion a year, which is the amount collected through the federal gasoline tax.
“I’m going to use every lever possible, on the FAA bill, on the highway bill, on the Coast Guard bill—whatever it takes to get long-term authorization,” Rep. Mica is quoted as saying in The Wall Street Journal. “I’m hoping similar controversy [to the FAA debate] can be avoided, but again my responsibility is to pass a long-term bill.”
Congressional Democrats are arguing for a two-year extension of the nation’s existing transportation budget. That plan expires Sept. 30.
If the nation’s transportation budget is adopted as proposed, Georgia could see a 35 percent decrease in the amount it receives for transportation infrastructure, according to one report.
In terms of what that could mean for road and transit improvements being considered in metro Atlanta, an unspecified amount of federal funds may have been included in the cost estimates of transit projects that were tentatively approved Aug. 4 by the Executive Committee of the Atlanta Regional Roundtable.
The $3 billion price tag of those projects did not include a revenue source when they were projected onto a screen during the meeting.
But the committee’s planning staff is well aware of the uncertain future of federal funding of road and transit projects. Here’s a snippet of a white paper that’s posted on the roundtable’s website:
“Any decision about leveraging federal funds to ‘complete’ a project allocated [sales tax] funds must be strategic and carries a significant degree of risk. Failure to deliver a project due to a reliance on future federal funds which fail to materialize is a distinct possibility.”
The committee is slated to reconvene Aug. 9 to consider adopting a list of roads that could be paid for with the proposed 1 percent sales tax for transportation. The committee’s schedule is to adopt a final list on Aug. 11, in advance of the Aug. 15 deadline.
The list voters will see on the ballot is due to be approved in October. The referendum is scheduled for July 2012.