A Georgia legislative report distributed December 30, 2014, has found a several billion dollar funding gap for the state’s transportation infrastructure needs.
According to the report released by the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding, the state will need between $1 and $1.5 billion per year just to maintain current road conditions.
Increasing regional mobility, including interstate highway capacity and transit, as well as providing new interchanges and intermodal options, would require an additional investment of between $2.1 and $2.9 billion annually. If further transportation modes were addressed, such as the establishment of passenger rails, Georgia would need to increase funding by an additional $3.9 billion to $5.4 billion per year.
The study also looked at the economic benefit of transportation investment, estimating that for every dollar spent, the economic benefit could be between $4 and $7. The Committee determined that improving roads and bridges would provide value to the entire state by decreasing delays in the shipment of goods shipments and reducing commutes, making Georgian businesses more desirable to workers.
The report provides several recommendations for funding the state’s transportation needs, including:
- Dedicating the fourth percent of the current four percent sales tax on motor fuel purchases (a gasoline sales tax in addition to the state’s flat excise tax on gasoline, three percent of which already goes to transportation) to pay off the Georgia Department of Transportation’s bond debt, currently totaling approximately $3.6 billion;
- Converting the entire four percent sales tax to a flat excise tax, which would adjust the state’s current 7.5 cents-per-gallon flat gasoline tax to 22-25 cents-per-gallon and make Georgia eligible for an additional $60 million through the International Fuel Tax Agreement;
- Indexing the state’s gas tax to either inflation, construction costs, or even the price of gasoline;
- Recapitalizing the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank to provide loans or grants for local governments;
- Creating a one-cent, statewide sales tax for transportation purposes, estimated to generate $1.4 billion per year;
- Increasing the state’s flat excise tax on gasoline; and
- Establishing an annual fee of $200 for private alternative fuel vehicles and $300 for commercial alternative fuel vehicles.
The Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding was appointed during the 2014 legislative session to study the critical needs of Georgia’s transportation infrastructure and suggest solutions to fund maintenance and new construction. The committee was commissioned in light of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan, which found a $74 billion transportation funding shortfall over the next 20 years for the state to complete necessary projects.