Our first post for 2009 relays the bittersweet news that Georgia's already moderate gas tax has been lowered even further.
The state tax was lowered by 4 cents per gallon to 14.6 cents starting Thursday. Georgia's gas tax is adjusted twice a year based on the average price of gas. When that average price dips - as it has in recent months - the tax goes down as well. Gov. Sonny Perdue rescinded an executive order he issued in June that froze the tax as prices skyrocketed during the summer.
The reduction cuts millions of dollars for the state Department of Transportation, which had a $456 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that ended July 31, according to an audit report in September.
"Our costs are going up and our revenues are declining," DOT spokesman David Spear said Friday. "We're trying to prioritize our projects and do the things that are most needed."The DOT budget for this year is about $2.3 billion, with about half coming from federal gas tax revenues and a comparable amount from the state. Spending could be padded by a "few hundred million" dollars in bond sales, Spear said.
Transportation funding is a problem nationwide. With motorists driving less and buying less fuel, the current 18.4-cents-a-gallon gas tax and 24.4-cents-a-gallon diesel tax fail to raise enough to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.
In Georgia, a proposal to allow counties to group together and impose a regional sales tax to pay for transportation projects failed to pass in last year's General Assembly by one vote. The legislature is expected to try to tackle a statewide transportation plan in the session beginning this month.
Let's hope the legislature & GDOT concentrate on projects that are "most needed," such as commuter rail, transit expansion, and transportation-oriented bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Recklessly throwing money at road widenings and interstate construction will only waste GDOT's time and money and will exacerbate our state's transportation crisis.