Al Graham's latest Thoughts

THE TRANSPORTATION BILL, AND HOW TO FUND ROAD AND BRIDGE IMPROVEMENTS IN THE STATE OF GA. IS A HOT TOPIC IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY RIGHT NOW….I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH INFORMATION YOU HAVE ON THE SUBJECT, BUT HERE’S A LITTLE FOOD FOR THOUGHT ON HOW HOUSE BILL 170 LOOKS AT FUNDING IN THE AMOUNT OF ABOUT A BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR MIGHT COME ABOUT….NO QUESTION ROADS AND BRIDGES IN GA. AND ACROSS THE NATION FOR THAT MATTER NEED IMMEDIATE ATTENTION…ONE RIDE UP AND DOWN I-16 WILL PROVE THAT…JUST SO YOU KNOW, THE ASSOCIATION OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF GA. THIS PAST MONDAY NIGHT THREW THEIR SUPPORT BEHIND HOUSE BILL 170…HOUSE BILL 170 WOULD CONSOLIDATE STATE AND LOCAL SALES TAXES ON MOTOR FUEL INTO ONE STATE EXCISE TAX OF 29.2 CENTS PER GALLON.  THE BILL WOULD PHASE OUT ALMOST ALL LOCAL SALES TAXES ON GAS,  ADD A NEW ANNUAL USER FEE FOR DRIVERS OF ELECTRIC  VEHICLES AND END A $5000 TAX CREDIT FOR BUYING THOSE ZERO-EMISSION CARS.  IN THE BEGINNING, DISCUSSION WAS ABOUT ALLOWING CITIES AND COUNTIES TO APPROVE UP TO 3 CENTS PER GALLON EACH IN EXCISE TAXES, PLUS UP TO AN ADDITIONAL 3 CENTS EACH BY REFERENDUM….THAT HAS NOW BEEN DROPPED FROM THE PACKAGE.  ACCORDING TO REP. JAY ROBERTS OF OCILLA LOCAL BOARDS CAN VOTE TO ADD UP TO 6-CENTS PER GALLON IN EXCISE TAXES ON TOP OF THE STATE’S PLANNED 29.2 CENTS PER GALLON.  MUNICIPAL OFFICIALS WOULD HAVE TO AGREE TO SPEND THE MONEY ON TRANSPORATION NEEDS, WITH THEIR SHARE DETERMINED BY A FORMULA ALREADY IN USE BY D.O.T….HOUSE BILL 170 WOULD CHANGE THE WAY GA. FUNDS HIWAY PROJECTS BY NEVER KNOWING HOW MUCH YOU HAD TO WORK WITH.  I DON’T HAVE THE ANSWER TO HOW THE FUNDING NEEDED CAN BE ARRIVED AT, BUT SOME OF THE OBJECTIONS TO THE BILL FROM AROUND THE STATE INCLUDE THE WAY THE BILL ELIMINATES LOCAL SALES TAXES ON MOTOR FUELS, REQUIRING ACTION BY LOCAL BOARDS LIKE COMMISSIONERS AND CITY COUNCILS TO MAKE UP THE DIFFERENCE WITH A NEW EXCISE TAX.  WHEN YOU PULL UP TO THE PUMP YOU MAY NOT REALIZE IT, BUT INCLUDED IN THE PRICE OF A GALLON OF GAS YOU ARE PAYING AN EXCISE TAX OF 7.5 CENTS PER GALLON, A 4% SALES TAX AND IN MOST PLACES ANOTHER LOCAL SALES TAX OF 3 TO 4%….UNDER HOUSE BILL 170, THIS MIX OF TAXES WOULD BE CONVERTED TO A 29.2 CENTS PER GALLON TAX AND INDEXED TO INFLATION WHICH MEANS A TAX INCREASE THAT RISES YEAR AFTER YEAR…THE BILL ALSO IMPOSES A CAR TAX HIKE ON ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLES FROM 200 TO $300 A YEAR INDEXED TO INFLATION AND IT ALSO HAS A GIMMICK IN IT TO GENERATE $500 MILLION DOLLARS IN NEW REVENUE…WITH THE STATE ABSORBING LOCAL GASOLINE SALES TAX MONEY, IT WOULD BE COLLECTING AND SPENDING MONEY THAT WAS COLLECTED AND SPENT BY LOCAL COMMUNITIES….THAT MEANS, WITHOUT THE WILL POWER TO CUT SPENDING, IT IS LIKELY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS WILL CONSIDER TAX HIKES IN THE FUTURE…..ACCORDING TO THE GROUP ‘AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM’ HOUSE BILL 170 NOT ONLY RESULTS IN AN IMMEDIATE GAS TAX HIKE, IT GIVES LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FREE REIN TO RAISE LOCAL GAS TAXES IN THE FUTURE.  THE TOTAL TAX ON GASOLINE IN GA. COULD RANGE AS HIGH AS 53.6 CENTS PER GALLON, WELL ABOVE THE NATIONAL AVERAGE OF 48.29 CENTS PER GALLON….THAT COULD PUT GA. AT THE 9TH HIGHEST TAXED GASOLINE IN THE COUNTRY.  INDEXING THE GAS TAX TO INFLATION WOULD MAKE IT EVEN WORSE….AND DON’T FORGET JUST TWO OR THREE YEARS AGO THE HEART OF GEORGIA R. AND D. AREA WAS ONE OF THREE IN THE STATE OF GA. TO VOTE FOR A ONE CENT SALES TAX TO FUND TRANSPORTATION…BEFORE THIS LEGISLATION IS PASSED, MAYBE IT’S TIME FOR AREA WIDE PUBLIC HEARINGS TO HEAR FROM THE CITIZENS THAT WILL BE BUYING THAT GAS AND PAYING THOSE TAXES…IT IS NEVER A GOOD THING TO TAKE CONTROL OUT OF THE HANDS OF LOCAL AREA COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL LEADERS THAT ARE ELECTED TO SERVE WE THE PEOPLE…THE PRECEEDING FACTS AND NUMBERS USED IN THIS REPORT OBTAINED FROM GA. PUNDIT AND FROM THE GA. GENERAL ASSEMBLY