SOURCE BRUNSWICK NEWS:
A bill that would boost the state gasoline tax to 29.2 cents per gallon and remove all local sales taxes on gasoline is unlikely to get the support of Sen. William Ligon, St. Simons Island.
Ligon supports the stand taken by Glynn County's delegates in the Georgia House of Representatives and indicates he will likely follow suit if the legislation stays intact.
Reps. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, and Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, voted against the proposed measure.
Despite opposition, the legislation passed in the House March 5 and now heads for the Senate.
"I support (Atwood and Jones') vote on the current structure of the bill," Ligon said. "I suspect that there may be significant revisions to the bill."
The vote by the House delegation is in line with resolutions passed by the Glynn County Commission, Glynn County Board of Education and Brunswick City Commission. All decried the loss of local sales tax dollars if the bill gets through the General Assembly in its current form and is signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, who favors it.
In Glynn County local government is collecting 2 cents for every dollar spent on gasoline — 1 cent for Local Option Sales Tax and 1 cent for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education. That would disappear from gas sales if the state tax becomes law.
Rep. Jones didn't like what the bill would do.
"In my view, the transportation bill, as passed, is bad for Georgia taxpayers, bad for Georgia consumers, bad for our local communities and bad for our local school system," he wrote to his constituents. "It is purely and simply a tax increase of major proportions."
Also voting against the state gasoline tax was Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, who rejected it for the same reasons as everyone else.
"This accounts for a an approximate net tax increase," Spencer said. "According to analysis by the Georgia State University Fiscal Research Center, the bill is an estimated tax increase of $703 million in FY 2016 (low end) to a high of $1 billion in 2020.
"I made a covenant with my voters that I would not raise their taxes. A promise should mean something, and I kept my promise."
Raising the tax at the pump would create problems for local governments.
"Should this bill become law, then my local governments would be forced to raise local taxes," Spencer said. "Camden County just raised property taxes. Enough is enough for my people."
Rep. Atwood opposed it for similar reasons.
"Although I certainly recognize and appreciate the importance of sufficient and adequate transportation funding for our state, I could not in good conscience vote for HB 170, as it remains a significant gas tax increase, placing an unfair burden on the citizens I represent as well as the local governing authorities of my district," Atwood told The News last week.
"As currently written, this legislation also does not, in my opinion, adequately address the global cause and effect of our current transportation funding issues, nor does it properly consider the myriad of transportation reforms that are producing truly positive results in states such as Texas."
— The Brunswick News