Other states invest in transportation while Georgia mostly stands still

By Saba Long

Transportation for America, a Washington, D.C.-based organization pushing for 21st century transportation infrastructure improvements across the country, recently announced nineteen states have put forth plans — some have already failed to pass —  to raise revenue for transportation projects.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley successfully lobbied the state’s General Assembly to pass a 20- cent increase to the gas tax phased in through year 2016. In the future, the gas tax will be indexed for inflation. Dubbed the Maryland Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act, the legislation will also impose a 3 percent sales tax on gasoline purchases. The two revenue models are expected to raise $4.4 billion over six years.

Others states that were able to effectively increase their gas tax for transportation infrastructure purposes include New Hampshire and Wyoming.

For some states, new transportations will be a dream deferred.

Last month in Mississippi, the Chair of the House Transportation Committee, a Democrat, introduced a bill to raise the state’s gas tax for highway funding. Additionally, a Republican in the State Senate introduced a bill to link casino winnings to the state’s highway fund. Both bills failed to make it out of committee.

The Indiana General Assembly introduced two bills, one would allow counties in the Indianapolis region to implement partial penny sales tax increases for expanding transit while the other would increase the gas tax to fund bridge repair and maintenance.

At an event in Detroit last week, former General Motors Vice Chair Robert Lutz remarked an increase in the gas tax is necessary to both reduce America’s addiction to oil and to fix the “unholy mess of this nation’s highway infrastructure”.

Additionally, the recent news the Obama Administration selected Anthony Foxx, Mayor of Charlotte, N.C., to replace Ray LaHood as U.S. Transportation Secretary bodes well for the South. We have seen the benefits of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s Washington, D.C. lobbying efforts for federal funding of the deepening of the Savannah Port.

Foxx as U.S. Transportation Secretary adds another arrow in the quiver for Reed’s transportation efforts.

Efforts to increase transportation spending must continue — in Georgia and across the country.

In metro Atlanta, we are continuing to pay a “congestion tax” as motorists remain in their vehicles without sustainable transportation options.

Unlike the aforementioned states, our General Assembly chose not to bring forth another transportation bill in the 2013 General Assembly nor is there talk of considering to do so next year.

Each year the State of Georgia turns a blind eye to the transportation infrastructure needs of the transit-centric urban core and rural roadway commuters, we will continue to fall behind competitor cities and states.

Saba Long is a communications and political professional who lives in downtown Atlanta. She serves as the senior council aide and communications liaison for Post 2 At-Large Atlanta City Councilman Aaron Watson. Most recently, Saba was the press secretary for MAVEN and Untie Atlanta -- the Metro Chamber’s education and advocacy campaigns in supportive of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Referendum. She has consulted with H.E.G. an analytics and evaluation firm where she lent strategic marketing and social media expertise to numerous political campaigns, including that of Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and the 2010 Clayton County transportation referendum. In 2009, Saba served as the deputy campaign manager for the campaign of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Previously, Saba was a Junior Account Executive at iFusion Marketing, where she lent fractional marketing strategy to various ATDC technology startups operating out of the Georgia Tech incubator, ATDC. For the past two years, Saba has presented on online marketing and politics to the incoming fellows of the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council.

18 replies
  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Good article, Ms. Long.
    {{“Efforts to increase transportation spending must continue — in Georgia and across the country.”}}
    …I wholeheartedly agree, but in a political environment that is completely dominated by rising anti-government and anti-tax sentiment, any effort to increase transportation spending in Georgia must begin with REDUCING and/or just outright ELIMINATING the existing sales taxes that are used to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the transportation infrastructure with decreasing effectiveness.
    In the current increasingly rambunctious and volatile anti-government and anti-tax political environment such as is currently found in one of the most-conservative states in the union here in Georgia, the only way to increase transportation funding would be by eliminating the portion of the state gas tax that funds the maintenance of major roads and replacing it with distance-based user fees on each major road where improvements and upgrades are needed.Report

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  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    In an increasingly volatile political environment that is dominated by increasingly staunchly-hardcore anti-government and anti-tax (and anti-transit) political elements, even the mere mention of a tax increase is a big political NO-NO that can swiftly end one’s long political career, particularly after the severe backlash to and intense widespread public rejection of last year’s highly-unpopular and highly-misguided T-SPLOST referendum.
    But since our pressing transportation needs continue to grow despite the understandable increasing anti-government and anti-tax sentiment, we must find a way to fund those needs within the framework of our current political reality, a reality in which tax increases for any reason are politically unfeasible.
    The best and only way to fund those growing transportation needs in this increasingly tax-averse political reality is to emphasize tax elimination and self-funding transportation infrastructure in which the taxpayers will not be on the hook for the costs of adequately funding our critically-needed transportation infrastructure.Report

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  3. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    {{“In metro Atlanta, we are continuing to pay a “congestion tax” as motorists remain in their vehicles without sustainable transportation options.”}}
    …So absolutely true, Ms. Long. 
    So instead of having motorists pay into an increasingly ineffective fuel tax to only partially fund the maintenance and upkeep needs of the transportation network, eliminate the ‘middle man’ route of having motorists pay into a state fuel tax that doesn’t even adequately fund the needs of the state’s road network that it can only be used on and instead have all commuters (motorists and transit users) pay directly into each critical piece of transportation infrastructure they use with inflation-indexed distance-based user fees on each road and transit line.Report

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  4. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Politically, this state can pay for a heck of a lot more of its transportation needs WITHOUT transportation taxes (like the state fuel tax and the 1% sales tax that funds MARTA in Fulton and DeKalb counties) than it can with transportation taxes.
    Eliminating fuel taxes eliminates the misconception that fuel taxes fully fund the maintenance and upkeep of the road network, because fuel taxes DO NOT fully fund the maintenance and upkeep of the road network.
    Eliminating the 1% sales tax that funds the operation of MARTA in Fulton and DeKalb counties would eliminate the misconception that only residents of Fulton and DeKalb counties pay for the operation of MARTA.
    For the record, EVERYONE who shops in Fulton and DeKalb counties pays for MARTA when they pay sales tax on the purchases that they make in Fulton and DeKalb counties that are subject to the 1% sales tax.
    That means that people from OUTSIDE of Fulton and DeKalb counties also pay for MARTA when they pay sales tax on something they buy inside Fulton & DeKalb counties (for example, when residents of places like Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties shop at places like Lenox Square, Atlantic Station, Perimeter Center, etc, they are also paying for MARTA along with the residents of Fulton and DeKalb counties who pay the 1% sales tax when they shop at places inside those two counties).Report

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  5. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Instead of having commuters indirectly pay to maintain roads and transit through increasingly ineffective sales taxes, eliminate transportation sales taxes on fuel and consumer purchases and just have each commuter directly pay to maintain the roads and transit lines they must use with inflation-indexed distance-based user fees on each piece of transportation infrastructure with distance-based user fees that fully fund the maintenance and upkeep of each major road and distance-based fares that fully fund the operation, maintenance and upkeep of each transit line.
    And to ensure that each piece of transportation infrastructure (major roads and transit lines) is able to maintain itself with the user fees it takes in absent the state and regional sales taxes that the user fees replace, we can make it illegal for the user fees collected on each road and in each regional transit corridor to be used anyplace else but on the road or transit corridor where they were collected.Report

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  6. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    For example, if state fuel tax funding of all Interstates and expressways in Georgia were eliminated and replaced with funding from distance-based user fees on each major road, a major road like Interstate 75 would gross at least roughly $230 million in user fee funding revenues each year alone at an average rate of 4.5 cents-per-mile ($0.045/mile).
    Under the same user fee funding system, Interstate 85 would gross at least roughly $130 million in yearly revenues at rates of 4.5 cents-per-mile while Interstate 285 would gross at least roughly $200 million in yearly revenues at rates of 4.5 cents-per-mile.
    That means that just those three major interstates alone would gross roughly $560 million in yearly revenues if the current method of funding the maintenance of major roads with fuel taxes is scrapped and replaced with, a figure which would be roughly $260 million more than the state’s entire current road maintenance yearly budget of about $300 million.Report

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  7. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Under a transportation-funding system where the portion of the fuel tax that funds interstates and expressways is eliminated and replaced with distance-based user fees on each road, the user fees collected on each individual major road would be used to fund the much-needed improvements and upgrades to those roads on which they are collected.
    The replacement of the fuel tax funding system with a user fee funding system would fund much-needed improvements and upgrades like the long-overdue reconstruction of multiple major interchanges along the I-285 Perimeter (at GA 400, at Ashford-Dunwoody Rd, at I-85 NE, at US 78 Stone Mtn Frwy, at I-20 East, at I-20 West, etc), the construction of elevated truck-only lanes along the entire circumference of the I-285 Perimeter and along each stretch of mainline Interstate spokes outside of the I-285 Perimeter (I-20 E, I-20 W, I-75 N, I-75 S, I-85 N and I-85 S).
    A user fee funding system would also fund the continuing maintenance and upkeep of each road the user fees are collected on over the long-term.Report

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  8. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    A user fee funding system would also fund the conversion of very-busy at-grade intersections into separated-grade intersections and tightly-constricted urban interchanges where needed (particularly along busy major surface roads like US Hwy 41 Cobb Parkway, GA Hwy 6 Thornton Rd, Peachtree Industrial Blvd, GA Hwy 141 Peachtree Parkway/Medlock Bridge Road, US Hwy 19-41 Tara Blvd, Camp Creek Parkway, US Hwy 78 Stone Mountain Hwy, etc).Report

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  9. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    The user fee funding method could also be used to fund much-needed improvements, upgrades and the long-overdue expansion of our transit system in the Greater Metro Atlanta region with the elimination and the replacement of the 1% sales tax that funds MARTA in Fulton & DeKalb with funding from distance-based user fees (distance-based fare collection structure on transit lines).
    The revenues from the user fee method of funding mass transit can be supplemented by Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development that pops up along transit lines), real estate transactions (the for-profit leasing-out of transit-owned properties around transit stations and along transit lines for the construction of transit-oriented development around stations and transit lines) and private investment (the for-profit term-leasing of transit lines and corridors along with the cost of operations and maintenance out to private operators).Report

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    • ScottNAtlanta says:

      The Last Democrat in Georgia  
      Would it really be that hard to contain all of this in 1 post…maybe 2???  It gets very hard to follow and dilutes any points you are makingReport

      Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        ScottNAtlanta Sorry, but we only get very few sentences per post in this new LiveFyre setup in which the posts chronologically start at the bottom with the newest posts being at the top.
        Just start with the first post at the bottom, work your way up through each of the posts and disagree and/or agree with each point and provide feedback to each point the best that you can.Report

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      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        ScottNAtlanta Besides, when it comes to Georgia’s severely-underfunded transportation infrastructure, do you have any suggestions of how we could go about increasing transportation funding?
        In particular, do you have any suggestions of how we can obtain the very-large amounts of funding that we need to upgrade our severely-struggling transportation infrastructure in this increasingly volatile anti-tax and anti-government (and anti-transit) political environment that is thoroughly dominated by anti-tax and anti-government (and anti-transit) political factions at the state level?Report

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  10. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    We don’t need to bang our heads against an impenetrable political wall with futile and misguided attempts to raise our own taxes (T-SPLOST political disasters and the like) and we don’t need to beg a bankrupt federal government to pay for critically-needed transportation improvements and upgrades.
    We can pay for our overwhelming and long-overdue critically-needed transportation upgrades on our own without politically-futile tax increase attempts and without begging for the help of a dead-broke and financially-insolvent federal government by utilizing seemingly outside-the-box, but highly-effective common sense methods of transportation financing (user fees and for-profit real estate).
    But it all must start with the ELIMINATION of our overdependency on increasingly ineffective sales taxes in an increasingly-volatile political climate in which anti-tax and anti-government sentiment is increasingly dominant.
    Following the worn-out path of endless tax increase attempts in an increasingly hostile anti-tax and anti-government environment will only make things worse and bring about more political disasters (like T-SPLOST) that set us back further than they do move us ahead where we need to go.Report

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  11. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    {{“Unlike the aforementioned states, our General Assembly chose not to bring forth another transportation bill in the 2013 General Assembly nor is there talk of considering to do so next year.”}}
    …Can you really blame them?  After last year’s political disaster that was the T-SPLOST referendum debacle, it is probably much better if the Georgia General Assembly does nothing with transportation for the time being as it is painfully obvious that collectively the Legislature does not have even the slightest, faintest clue of how to deal with transportation at this critical juncture.
    Attempting to push another transportation “bill” (if that’s what you want to call it) would only serve to show everyone in the state just how totally, completely and utterly CLUELESS (to put it very nicely) the legislature is on transportation issues.Report

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  12. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    {{“Each year the State of Georgia turns a blind eye to the transportation infrastructure needs of the transit-centric urban core and rural roadway commuters, we will continue to fall behind competitor cities and states.”}}
    …So very true, Ms. Long.  BTW, do you or anyone else out there have any good ideas on where to start?  Now would be a good time to kick forth the innovative funding ideas.Report

    Reply
  13. writes_of_weigh says:

    As always, the devil is in the details.  If confirmed by Senate Commerce, and then the full Senate, the “devil” will actually be Charlotte’s recent mayor Foxx. Some have already confused the tarheel state’s two Foxes, when actually there is only one Foxx(D) and one Fox(R). The new “devil”, may actually only be the Secretary of Transportation for our increasingly multi-muddle transpo-clogged state/nation. He seems to be able to at least grasp the notion that it takes forward motion of multiple modes to begin to even address the multi-modal-muddle. Perhaps Mayor Reed wasn’t quite ready to surrender his still dark head of hair(does only his stylist know?/do we care?) Anyway, if confirmed, one wonders if the new DOT Secretary to be, might begin to address North Carolina’s deficient rail network, which in recent years has seen it’s share of collapsing bridges, abandoned rights-of-way(s), and over burdened route structure(which by the way, links Georgia mainlines to the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S.) Will the “devil” become an archangel, delivering funding in the hundreds of millions of dollars to Georgia’s Savannah River port vision, or perhaps require a rebuild of long abandoned Atlanta bypass alternate rail routes in order to prevent a (Texas style)”Tower 55″ like rail traffic meltdown at Howell Junction?  One particularly wonders if he may involve himself in extricating Amtrak from the qui-tam “situation” in which it posited itself in 2001, by terminating a fare collecting/depositing safety whistle-blower, who in his time came to know where many closets containing rail-centric “skeletons” are located, still “banging around”, causing politcal/real world rail congestion consequences/questions. Dealing with this individual may smooth many current route “congestion” problems, and media perception of those seemingly impassable ways.Report

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