Republican state lawmakers appear ready to raise taxes or fees to pay for Georgia’s underfunded transportation network, a development setting off alarm bells for some voters.
“I think they can find what they need to improve the roads with what they’ve got,” says George Bicknell, a midtown Atlanta resident. “We fund a lot of things that don’t need funding and nobody’s willing to let their own pet projects be cut and so the cry is always ‘more taxes,’ not ‘let’s prioritize what we’ve got.'”
One group, Georgia Taxpayers United, is already hosting an online petition that calls on lawmakers to abandon any plan to raise the state’s gas tax.
Each time a Georgia driver fills up their tank, a few bucks goes to the state. That money is then used to maintain and build Georgia’s roads and bridges. But state leaders say what’s being raised isn’t enough.
Senate Transportation Committee chair Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, explained the problem at a recent conference.
“Cars are getting more and more fuel mileage. Revenue streams are dropping…Then you have cars that are not using gas at all,” said Gooch.
State officials say the annual funding gap is at least a billion dollars and growing.
Republican lawmakers are already preparing for a fight, likely with Tea Party groups and other anti-spending factions.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle. It always is,” said Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, chair of the House transportation committee. “When you have a piece of legislation that is going to be this thorough, this so-to-speak life-changing…It’s going to be a tough issue to pass.”
Roberts and other lawmakers are close to unveiling a set of recommendations that will be the basis for future legislation.
Among the ideas – a higher fuel tax, more toll lanes, extra fees for electric cars, and charging drivers for the amount of miles they drive.