Local government officials oppose Transportation Funding Act

Published 7:42 pm Friday, February 13, 2015

Georgia House Bill 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, is continuing to concern local governmental entities. 

Thursday evening, the Decatur County Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution formally announcing the board’s opposition to House Bill 170, and the Bainbridge City Council will consider a similar resolution at its meeting on Feb. 17. The Decatur County Board of Commission has also discussed formally opposing the bill.

The bill, in its current state, will remove sales taxes on gas and replace them with a 29.2-cent-per-gallon excise tax that would go to the state. The bill has provisions to help local governments soften the financial blow by allowing them to add another tax. The result is not an increase in state taxes, but would possibly be an increase in local taxes and what consumers pay in taxes. With the elimination of the sales taxes, SPLOST, LOST and E-SPLOST would not be allowed to be renewed, which would hit local boards of education especially hard, because the bill does not provide ways for them to make up that lost revenue.

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“Decatur County Board of Education hereby urges the Georgia General Assembly and our local delegation to strongly oppose any bill, provision or measure to re-allocate local sales tax funding from local governments to the state of Georgia. Furthermore, that the state of Georgia not approve any provision of a transportation bill that authorizes double taxation of municipal residents,” the BOE resolution reads.

The bill is currently undergoing the committee approval process before being presented for approval from the Georgia House of Representatives. The most recent alterations to the bill, which fundamentally changes how the state collects taxes on gasoline and other fuels, allows county-wide municipalities to levy a six-cent tax per gallon of gas. That money would then be split upon county and city governments following a formula the Georgia Department of Transportation uses to allocate maintenance grants.

“We have an issue with that only because it leaves it to the whole discretion of the County Commission, which we don’t feel like will be a problem here, but there could be a county commission somewhere that just elects not to do it, which would be very harmful to cities,” Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby said. “We also think that the formula they’re talking about using, which is the same formula they use to decide on the maintenance and improvement grant money, which only factors center-line mileage, it doesn’t take into full account the paved road mileage inside the city and also traffic counts, and we think that’s important.”