Whether you suffer through a two-hour commute to work, worry about MARTA’s future, or need a better option than driving to get from one end of the state to the other, we can all agree there is a transportation problem in Georgia.
So, why is our Republican leadership standing idly by as federal aid that could help solve our traffic problem goes to surrounding states?
States in the Southeast recently received nearly $2 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail projects. Florida received over $1 billion, and North Carolina received $545 million.
All Georgia had to do was raise $15 million to receive our fair share of the federal money. Thanks to Governor Perdue and the rest of Georgia’s Republican leadership, we received a measly $750,000 to study if Georgia has a transportation problem.
The federal money would have given Georgia two things it desperately needs right now: high-speed commuter rail and jobs.
The construction and operation of the high-speed rail system in North Carolina is expected to create over 31,400 new one-year construction jobs, over 800 permanent new railroad operating positions, and nearly 19,000 permanent full-time jobs from businesses which choose to locate or expand in North Carolina because of the high-speed rail system.
Why is North Carolina getting federal funding and Georgia is not? The answer is simple: the governor refuses to make transportation a priority.
While the governor and the rest of Georgia’s Republican leadership failed to respond to our transportation problem, Georgia’s Democrats acted.
On Feb. 4, House and Senate Democrats announced the Transportation Job Development Act. The new transportation legislation helps to ensure Georgia receives its fair share of federal stimulus money and creates a mechanism for a regional transportation SPLOST.
The Transportation Job Development Act dedicates the fourth penny collected on motor fuel tax to any general transportation purpose.
As of FY 2009 the motor fuel tax generated over $137 million – more than enough to cover the $15 million Georgia needed to raise to receive millions of federal funding dollars.
The proposed legislation allows for the formation of special transportation districts, giving local jurisdictions the power to decide whether or not to levy a local tax.
It also constitutionally dedicates the fourth penny of sales tax generated from motor fuel to “any transportation purpose” to leverage federal dollars and help with economic development through state aid and LARP for local communities.
Transportation should be a top priority for the governor and all state lawmakers in Georgia. Democrats have not only made it a priority, but have also laid out a plan of action.
Republicans have refused to lead or follow. Maybe it’s time for them to get out of the way.
[Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Tyrone) is serving his fourth term in the 66th House District. The district includes parts of Fayette and Fulton Counties in south metro Atlanta. He serves on the Ways and Means, Regulated Industries, Small Business, and Banking committees. He is also chair of the Economic Development Policy Committee and co-chair of the Working Families Legislative Caucus.]