Taking to the well for the first time this session, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston in a rousing speech led the House to pass HB 277, a bill for transportation funding by a vote of 141-29. The Senate passed it shortly afterward, breaking a logjam that has bottled up the issue for at least three years.Well, it took us long enough to get here, and this money, if it's even approved by our region, won't be available for three years.
It now goes to the desk of Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The bill would divide the state into 12 regions. A “roundtable” of local elected officials in each region would draw up a list of projects for the region, and could then submit the list to voters for their approval in a referendum, along with a 1 percent sales tax to fund them. No county could opt out of a region’s tax, but a roundtable could decline to hold a referendum in the region.
[If a region opts out,] they will lose out on some new state benefits, including a bit more money for small local road projects. And it wouldn’t be able to try again for a vote for two years.
That said, this legislation is a great step forward.
Between these funds, federal transportation dollars, grants, Safe Routes to School funds, an increased gasoline tax (Georgia's is among the nation's lowest, as is our general funding for transit) and a commitment to better transportation planning overall, we may finally enjoy the kind of multi-modal transportation choices enjoyed by forward-thinking cities around the nation.