New Transportation Revenue Sources Over the past two years the Georgia Transit Association (GTA) has worked closely with others in the business, transportation, environmental, and local government communities to convey the urgent need for Georgia to create a new, coherent, and consistent transportation funding policy to promote economic development, environmental sustainability, air quality, and safety. Regrettably, while the 2009 General Assembly did enact legislation reforming the governance of transportation intended to economize the transportation funding process, no new sources of revenue were authorized.
It is crucial that any new funding source for transportation be consistent with the following principles established by the Georgia Transit Association:
The purpose (the use of the proceeds) should include all modes of transportation, including transit
Allow for funding of transit operations
Supplement, not replace, existing funding
Provide flexibility for regions of the state to address their transportation needs and provide for a fair return on investment in those regions
Critical Need for Funding
The need for funding of transit operations remains critical because Georgia is still one of nine states - and the only one of the 10 most populous - that does not partner with local and federal governments to support the operation of public transportation systems.
While Georgia’s transit buses and vans travel on a road system supported by the motor fuel tax, local transit systems do not have access to such dedicated revenues. They must rely on local government operating subsidies, which typically are provided through local property taxes or general funds.
The 2009 General Assembly saw the introduction of two separate transportation funding measures - SB 39/SR 44 and HB 277/HR 206, which remain eligible for consideration in 2010.
The Senate Approach
SB 39/SR 44, the Senate (regional) approach, allows voters to create a new transportation funding source through a one-cent sales tax levied at the county or regional level.
This legislation allows for funds to be used for all modes of transportation, including transit operations; is flexible on a sunset date; provides for local / regional selection of transportation projects and purposes to be funded; and creates a dual system whereby the Atlanta region is pre-defined for purposes of levying the sales tax but individual counties or self-selected regions of counties and cities may form outside metro Atlanta and implement the tax.
The House Approach HB 277/HR 206, the House approach (statewide), would allow voters to create a new transportation funding source through a statewide one-cent sales tax. The legislation contains a list of individual geographically specific transportation projects, including transit, to be funded; specifies a 10-year sunset; and potentially includes funding for maintenance and operations of some transit systems, but not for rural transit or a large number of urban systems.
GTA's Position In addition to establishing the principles for new transportation funding listed above, GTA has adopted a position “Supporting a transportation funding bill which provides local and regional control over transportation expenditures and addresses all facets of transit needs statewide. Currently GTA is more comfortable with the ‘regional’ approach, but it is open to consideration of alternative bills which meet these criteria.”