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Georgia House committee passes transportation funding bill
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ATLANTA (AP) — Local governments could continue collecting some sales tax on motor fuel, but the money would have to be used for transportation purposes, including school bus service, under an amended transportation bill that won approval Wednesday in a state House committee.

The measure passed with significant changes aimed at placating local government and school officials unhappy with former versions.

City and school representatives have said previous versions of the proposal would take millions in sales taxes on gasoline from their budgets as the state shifted to a 29.2 cent per gallon excise tax dedicated for transportation spending.

Sponsoring Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, said other local sales taxes used for property tax relief would increase to 1.25 percent from 1 percent on other purchases. Those sales taxes still couldn't be charged on fuel.

The substitute also eliminates language saying lawmakers intended for a new $200 charge on electric vehicle users to be used for transit. Roberts said there are questions about whether lawmakers can dedicate any funding without changing the state constitution.

The bill still would eliminate Georgia's tax credit of up to $5,000 for electric vehicle purchases.

Roberts said he expects the bill to wind up in a conference committee where members from the Senate and House can hash out their differences before the end of the 40-day session.

"We need to make sure that we bring in business and industry, that they will be able to get that product from point A to point B or that their employees will be able to get to and from work without having to sit in traffic for an extra hour, hour and a half a day," he said.

Lawmakers are under pressure from the state's business community and Gov. Nathan Deal to pay for transportation needs as less money comes from the federal government and motor fuel tax revenue drops due to more efficient cars. A study committee found Georgia needs at least $1 billion more each year just to maintain its current roads and bridges.

Three members of the committee voted against the bill, including Rep. Tom McCall, R-Elberton. He asked Roberts whether organizations representing counties, cities and school boards were happy with the changes.

"I can tell you we've addressed a lot of their concerns, but I can't tell you they all have come out and endorsed this bill," Roberts said.