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Billion Dollar Bill Moves Forward. Will Transit Tag Along?

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At the end of last year, Georgia legislators signaled that they were interested in sweeping changes when it comes to transportation funding from state coffers. After much speculation, yesterday the House unveiled a new transportation plan centered on raising more than $1 billion per year to not only shore up existing infrastructure but support transit in a state that's been staunchly in favor of cars. Perhaps what's most surprising is that the support comes from the Republican majority, considered the most unlikely of places. But with a long wish list and no concrete funding source — and with Republicans historically despising taxes almost as much as transit — can we really expect true progress soon?

The bill, slated to be proposed today, calls for the termination of the current gas tax structure in favor of a flat 29.2 cents per gallon excise tax on gas. While raising funds by removing taxes seems counterintuitive, the plan also captures money from those who own alternative fuel vehicles, charging a flat $200 per year fee. Sure, Atlanta has ranked highly in adoption of electric cars, but the new fee hardly seems enough to make a dent in the proposed $100 million transit component of the bill. And furthermore, the fee works out to the tax on purchasing 685 gallons of gas per year, working out to the equivalent of more than 17,000 miles when compared to a 25MPG average; at 50MPG the total would be more than 34,000 miles and with the 128.2MPGe of the Nissan Leaf, the gas equivalent to the tax would be like driving 90,000 miles per year. The amount could be viewed as placing a discriminatory burden on those who don't purchase gas and drive far less than the equivalent mileage.

But let's digress.

The details are all hazier than a smog-alert day in July, but the AJC reports that a major funding source for the $1 billion bill will be a "significant" bond package next year. The plan, which seems about as fiscally sustainable as it is environmentally friendly, leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Can we hope for a clear path forward this legislative session, or will things seemingly not add up?

· House leaders unveil $1 billion transportation plan [AJC]
· Support for Atlanta Transit Surfaces in Unlikely Places [Curbed Atlanta]
· Does Talk of Actually Funding Transit Signal a Sea Change? [Curbed Atlanta]