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November 13, 2015

Transportation Commissioner Updates Business Leaders on Funding

On Thursday, November 12, MAC’s Transportation Policy Committee hosted GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry to discuss the success of HB 170, approved in the 2015 legislative session.  MAC VP of Infrastructure & Government Affairs, Dave Williams and McGuireWoods’ Brad Alexander led a discussion of transit funding opportunities for the 2016 legislative session.

Commissioner McMurry hailed HB 170 as the most significant piece of transportation legislation approved by the Georgia General Assembly since the motor fuel excise tax was enacted in 1971.  Thanks to the revenue from HB 170, Georgia nowhas the resources to clear its maintenance backlog and begin tackling new and deferred projects.  HB170 will provide an additional $900 million for projects annually. Coupled with the prospects for an long term federal highway agreement, Georgia is well positioned to meet its surface transportation needs for the immediate future.

Critical transit funding was also HB 170 discussed at the transportation meeting Thursday. HB 170 gave each Georgia county the authority to include a ballot referendum to increase local sales tax by up to 1 penny for transportation for five years. Fulton and Dekalb Counties have expressed interest in splitting this penny to provide 1/2 cent for transit and 1/2 cent roads.  This split would allow MARTA to expand north up 400 to Windward Parkway, east along I-20 to Stonecrest Mall,  and to connect Emory University and the CDC.

Among the key takeaways from the transit discussions:

  • This is an issue for Fulton and DeKalb counties only.
  • The legislature will not need to provide any new taxing authority, it simply needs to allow the penny in HB 170 to be split into two separate funding durations.
  • Voters strongly support transit and appear unwilling to support an increase in the sale tax if transit is not a part of the solution.

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