Local officials try to understand effects of state transportation bill

Published 7:07 pm Friday, February 6, 2015

The Transportation Funding Act of 2015 has people around the state talking, including the Bainbridge City Council.

The bill, formally known as House Bill 170, was introduced by House leadership last week and “fundamentally changes the way motor fuels are taxed in the state of Georgia,” City Manager Chris Hobby said at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

The results of those changes would be an increase in what consumers pay per gallon.

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According to calculations by Glennie Bench, vice president of finance at Inland Oil, Decatur County consumers currently pay about 46 cents per gallon in taxes, based on a price of $2 per gallon. With the proposed bill, that amount will increase to 49 cpg.

The bill also allows local governments to levy a three-cpg tax.

“The county can do that; the city can do that,” Hobby said. “The county would collect theirs county-wide, and we would only collect ours in the city. One problem that potentially creates is inside the city limits of Bainbridge, you’re collecting three more cents of tax than you are just across the line.”

If that were the case, according to Bench’s calculations, consumers would pay $2.09 in Bainbridge city limits and $2.06 in other parts of Decatur County.

“It creates a huge competitive disadvantage and pits city and county retailers against each other,” Bench said.

On top of the county-city difference, Bainbridge would also see a growth in differences of gas prices across state lines.

Bench said that consumers would be able to get gas three-to-four cents cheaper in Gadsden County, Florida, and a whopping 16 cents cheaper just over the Alabama border.

“I agree with the need for transportation funding statewide, but they’ve taken the easy way out for them,” Bench said. “They’re essentially asking [local governments] to do the dirty work.”

Hobby said that state legislators are insisting it is not a tax increase, which he says is not true.

The bill is currently undergoing the committee process, and local officials are confident it will change drastically before it is finalized.

Bench said, “I don’t understand why they don’t meet us halfway. Convert the four percent state sales tax to the excise tax and leave the local sales taxes alone.”