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State lawmakers want fuel tax to fund transit (gasp), other transportation initiatives

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The tax money should be building more than roads and bridges, they argue

An exterior photo of the Georgia Capitol Building with its gold dome.
But does the legislation have a shot?
Karon Warren, Curbed Atlanta

A group of Democratic state senators thinks the way Georgia’s fuel tax revenue is used is too limited, echoing the long-held concerns of transit advocates in Atlanta and beyond.

Today, the state’s constitution mandates that all monies collected from fuel taxes can be used only for “providing and maintaining an adequate system of public roads and bridges in this state.”

But if Senate Resolution 654 is passed during the ongoing legislative session, gas tax funding could be allocated for a broad swath of transportation initiatives—in Georgia.

As it’s written today, SR 654, which was introduced at the end of January, scratches out the words “roads and bridges” and replaces them simply with “transportation.”

That means, if the constitution were amended in accordance with this legislation, fuel tax cash could be used to improve, say, the state’s mass transit network.

Avowed urbanists across the nation have long wagged a finger at the State of Georgia for hampering metro Atlanta’s transit ambitions.

Streetsblog USA, for instance, published an article in September titled “Atlanta’s Transit Flaws Are State’s Fault,” calling foul on what they consider lackluster efforts at the state level to address the region’s transit shortcomings.

Nodding to the potentially $2.7 billion More MARTA transit expansion program, author Aaron Short lamented that its projects would take decades to be realized “because the [transit] authority isn’t getting state or federal funding.”

Georgia’s 2020 budget from fuel tax revenue has been clocked at some $1.9 billion, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

Imagine what it could mean for More MARTA projects or other transit expansion initiatives if just a fraction of that was rerouted from car-centric infrastructure.