Anyone who has followed this legislative session knows there’s lots of talk about Georgia’s transportation. Forget the gridlock, congestion, and lack of transit options in our most populous regions, we’re struggling just to keep the roads paved and the bridges useable. I’m not going to delve into the details, but if you need the back-story I’d suggest checking out the transportation section of PolicyBEST.org, they’re eyeball deep in this issue.
Now, I’d love to agree with the idea that rhetoric and posturing are enough to solve our transportation issues, especially since our legislators are so skilled in those disciplines, however, the roads won’t be paved with the speeches by our lawmakers. If we are to trust what our legislators say, then their words must be reflected in their actions. Today’s Senate proceedings provided a rather stark display of how those reflections get distorted. Here’s what passed out of the Senate today:
The budget (with regards to transportation):
- The “fourth penny” from motor fuel taxes goes into the general fund (not to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT))
- New debt proposed to pay for additional budgetary needs.
- Service current GDOT Debt.
Senate substitute for HB 170:
- New “user” fees
- Converts the motor fuel sales tax to an excise tax (note the first bullet from the budget…these two things cannot coexist)
Therein lies the problem, the budget and the transportation bill don’t account for each other. The budget spends money from the general fund that will go away if a transportation bill restructuring the motor fuel tax is passed. Moreover, we spend tax dollars to service current debt, and the Senate’s solution is to add debt?!? To that point, take a quick look at this chart, it is the recommendation for next year’s GDOT budget (paying special attention to the 14% in the 2 o’clock area):
Y’all…maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like this is a classic case of wanting to have the cake and eating it too. Either funding GDOT at a high enough threshold to maintain our infrastructure is a priority or it isn’t. Seems to me, with what the Senate passed today, that it isn’t.
Don’t increase the debt liability of the department charged with maintaining our roads when the current debt load is already an issue.
Don’t spend the “fourth penny” on the justice, education, or medical systems if the intent is for those dollars to go to the roads.
And don’t tell me that you believe we have a transportation crisis if GDOT is, at best, fourth on your priority list.
Dear Legislature: You need to get right with Jesus, and the conference committee is the perfect time to do it.