Gov. Nathan Deal tells Atlanta business leaders that transportation fixes remain a funding issue

By Maria Saporta

Gov. Nathan Deal used the forum of speaking to the high-level board of the Commerce Club at its Thursday lunch to talk about a “few things we had in the budget designed to stimulate economic development in our state.”

After the closed lunch meeting, Deal spent a few minutes in an interview to talk about what issues were on the minds of some of the top business leaders in Atlanta.

Deal, who had been invited to speak to the Commerce Club board three times in 2013 but ended up having to cancel each time, also outlined his plans for criminal justice reform and education in the state.

After his prepared remarks, business leaders asked the governor about what the state should do to fix the transportation issues that exist in metro Atlanta.

Deal said it boiled down to the availability of funding.

At that point, the governor and the business leaders brought up the future of a regional transportation sales tax. A referendum held on July 31, 2012 failed in the metro Atlanta region, but it passed in three other regions around the state. After two years, regions could decide to present a new referendum to voters.

According to a couple of the board members in the room, the governor told them that some people would like to throw out the regional transportation sales tax approach. But he said he was not ready to do so.

There also is a new bill making its way through the legislature that would provide a fractional sales tax and permit two counties or two governments to pass  a tax for particular projects rather that have a regional tax.

Deal told the Commerce Club board that he is not in favor of taking a fractionalized approach at this time.

After the board meeting, Deal was asked whether he would support the state providing more money for transit. Currently MARTA is the largest public transit system in the country that receives no financial operating support from the state.

“We didn’t get into specifics on that,” Deal said. “There is ongoing discussion in the General Assembly about the connectivity of our buses, what Sen. (Brandon) Beach has been talking about. It’s not full-blown transit. It’s about unifying what we have and making it more accessible and user friendly.”

Asked about whether the state would continue to support the Xpress bus service provided by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, Deal said: “I can’t think that there’s any extra money in the budget. We’ll try to maintain funding levels.”

Gov. Deal is running for re-election this year, and he is facing opposition both in the Republican primary and in the general election in November.

After the meeting, a couple of business leaders were asked if Deal would be receiving their support, and their answers were mostly positive. One person mentioned that it’s difficult for the business community to oppose a standing governor.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

7 replies
  1. MarcusSouthMetro says:

    Why can’t the State help Marta and get the commuter rails started. With the commuter rail getting built, it’ll serve most of the state when it’s get done.Report

    Reply
  2. Roscoe says:

    So business as usual when it comes to transportation. Lots of talk, no real action for metro Atlanta, especially in a year when the General Assembly is eager to end the session early so they can go back to raising campaign money for the primaries in May. For Xpress that means they might be able to maintain current levels of service if there are no raises for the drivers/mechanics/cleaners, they can maintain the cost of the contracts with the private providers at current levels, the price of diesel doesn’t go up, the price of tires and parts doesn’t go up, etc. They’ll probably need a fare increase just to stay where they are. For transit in the rest of the state, even less. For the roads, well, if you live in Central Georgia you may see some stuff, but that extra penny isn’t generating what they thought it would so far. For the rest of us…repaving schedule extended out long beyond what they once were, maintenance stretched out, and few, if any, expansions or updates not fully funded by the feds.Report

    Reply
  3. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    MarcusSouthMetro The state will not give financial help to MARTA and get commuter rail started because of politics, my friend, politics.
    There remains an extreme ideological bent against transit of any kind (particularly passenger rail transit, but also buses) by the shrinking but still very-powerful transit-averse, tax-averse and government-averse ultraconservatives in outer-suburban and exurban Metro Atlanta who remain in control of Georgia’s state government and statewide political climate.
    Not only do those powerful anti-transit ultraconservatives simply dislike transit, but many of them think that transit is something that is a pure form of evil and highly-destructive to the American way-of-life.
    Governor Deal is actually the only thing keeping Metro Atlanta’s very-modest regional commuter bus service, GRTA Xpress, operating or the state likely would have defunded that as well at the urging of the powerful anti-transit ultraconservatives who currently still have much control in state government.
    Transit remains an abhorred concept amongst many of the very-powerful voting constituencies outside of the I-285 Perimeter who control the state’s political structure and climate.
    Though, it should also be noted that excessive roadbuilding is not accepted all that well either amongst much of that same powerful anti-transit constituency.Report

    Reply

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