The Georgia Department of Transportation estimates that it needs $2 billion a year just to maintain its current infrastructure.
-Georgia is home to the busiest airport in the world, the tenth largest road system in the nation, and the fourth busiest container port in the US (Garden City Terminal in Savannah)
-In 1972, GOT had 9,110 employees. In 2014, that number was down to 4110
-For the 2015 fiscal year, DOT received $1 billion from state motor fuel taxes, $1.2 billion in federal funds, and $15 from general funds. Those federal funds are set to fall by $400 million.
-In 1971, $1 million would have paid to resurface 64.07 miles of a typical two-lane rural highway. In 2011, $1 million would only resurface 6.67 miles for the same section of road.
-Between 2002 and 2014, the percent of Georgia routes in fair or better condition fell from 92% to 74%
If you find the debate over HB 170, Georgia’s transportation bill, confusing, you are not alone. For one thing, it keeps changing, and will likely undergo more changes in the state Senate. As federal funds for state transportation decrease over time, Georgia will have to get creative to find money for its transportation infrastructure, which is vital to the safety of its citizens and the growth of its economy.
Here’s what you need to know to follow the bill as it makes its way through the Senate:
Taxes on fuel are levied at the county, state, and federal level.
There are two types of fuel taxes: excise tax and sales tax.
A sales tax is levied as a percent of the cost of fuel, and therefore fluctuates with fuel price.
An excise tax is levied against the quantity of fuel (cents per gallon), and does not change with fuel price.
The transportation bill aims to convert all fuel taxes to excise taxes. Excise taxes are stable, making it easier to predict revenue and plan projects accordingly. It also seeks to ensure that all taxes levied on fuel go towards transportation projects.
Current tax breakdown:
Federal: 18.4 cents per gallon excise tax
State: 7.5 cents per gallon excise tax, and 4% sales tax. 3% of the 4% sales tax goes to transportation, and 1% goes to the general fund.
Newton County: 3% sales tax. 1% goes to SPLOST (special-purpose, local-option sales tax, like the one Newton County voters approved to fund the civic center); 1% goes to ELOST (Education local-option sales tax, for the school system, also known as ESPLOST) and 1% goes to LOST (local option special tax).
According to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, Georgians currently pay $27 cents a gallon for all state and local taxes (the sales tax is readjusted every six months according to fuel price).
Proposed tax breakdown:
HB170 proposes combining and converting all fuel taxes into a set excise tax that would not change with the price of fuel. In the future, the state and counties would no longer be able to use revenue from gas taxes to fund education, general funds, or non-transportation SPLOST projects (live a civic center).
In its current form, the bill would set the state fuel tax rate at 29.2 cents per gallon, but that could change.
Most local taxes on motor fuel would be phased out. ELOST and SPLOST that do not have a transportation component would be allowed to run their course till the end of their referendum, with no restrictions on spending. Any new SPLOST, however, would have to have a transportation component to be collected on motor fuels. LOST and ELOST would no longer be collected on motor fuels, but each rise would rise to 1.25% on all other taxable exchanges.
The ACCG estimates that in its present form, the bill would increase Newton County’s revenue by $1,269,282. Other counties, such as Morgan County, which derive a greater percentage of their income from motor fuel sales, would lose money under the proposed legislation.
This is a simplified breakdown of the bill’s major components. Please visit house.ga.gov to review the bill in its entirety.