That’s a Wrap!

Below is a letter from GA Highway Contractor’s Association that outlines Transportation Funding Act of 2015. We would like to thank them for all their hard and tireless work!

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April 3, 2015

Members,

That’s a wrap! The 2015 Legislative Session came to a close at midnight on April 2. Legislators were able to accomplish quite a bit this year! Legislators passed a monumental transportation-funding bill. This was the premier issue of the Session. While there were opposition groups along the way, everyone saw the need for a plan. A strong coalition of interested parties joined together and worked tirelessly with legislators to find a compromise plan that ultimately passed the Legislature on Day 39.

Below is a summary of the bill:

Transportation Funding Act of 2015

* The main component in the bill and, often the point of contention in negotiations, is an increase in the state portion of the gas tax. From the current level at 19.3 cents per gallon, the tax rises to 26 cents per gallon. This will raise close to $400 Million. The bill also shifts the tax from sales and use to a pure excise tax, sending the fourth-penny from the general fund to transportation. This raises another $180 Million.

* The tax rate is indexed to fuel efficiency and, for the first two years, inflation.

This is expected to raise the tax rate by about 1 cent each of the first two years and about half a cent per year after that.

* The bill established a new $5 per night tax on hotel and motel stays. This is estimated to raise $150 Million to $180 Million per year depending on occupancy rates.

* Another point of contention throughout the negotiations was the jet-fuel tax exemption, also known as the “Delta” tax exemption. This will add approximately $23 Million per year.

* The $5,000 electric – vehicle tax credit is eliminated adding approximately $45 Million per year. Additionally, electric vehicles will be assessed an annual fee of $200 per year for passenger vehicles and $300 per year for commercial vehicles. This is expected to raise about $2 Million per year initially and will rise to $10-12 Million per year in the next 5 years.

* Since heavy trucks cause much of the wear and tear damage to roads, legislators added a “highway impact fee” for heavy trucks. The fee is $50 per year for trucks weighing 15,500 – 26,000 lbs. and $100 per year for trucks heavier than the 26,000 lbs.

* The bill allows counties within GRTA service area (and MARTA – the areas overlap) to raise their own version of the T-SPLOST metro Atlanta voters rejected in 2012. If they do, they must devote at least 30% of the funds to projects on the State Transportation Improvement Plan. Depending on participation, this could raise hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

* The bill creates the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. This committee is made up of 14 members including House and Senate leadership and 3 additional appointees from each chamber with minority representation. The Committee will take on the task of considering tax reform legislation for the 2016 Legislative Session. The committee is repealed on July 1, 2016. While this bill may not be perfect, it is certainly is a huge step forward. This $900 Million measure roughly doubles the state portion of our transportation spending. Decades of under-funding have left a huge hole to fill and we want to thank legislators for taking a step forward for transportation in Georgia.

Here are the votes on the final vote for the bill:

Senate – (42-12)

House – (129-41)

Here is the final version of the bill:

In addition to HB 170, a number of other transportation measures passed with less theatrics. They are summarized below:

SB 2 –This bill proposes that a student who completes an associate degree program, a technical college diploma program or at least two technical college certificate of credit programs in one career pathway shall be deemed to have met graduation requirements of the State Board. SB 2 would work under the current dual-enrollment guidelines while allowing additional flexibility to students who desire to enroll in courses outside the dual enrollment matrix defined by the DOE. This bill passed the House on March 26 and is now on the Governor’s desk. (Tippins, 37).

SB 4 – Senator Steve Gooch offered this bill addressing urban redevelopment for counties and municipal corporations. It provides for the use of surface transportation projects in those areas and also for public-private partnerships for the completion of surface transportation projects. The bill defines “surface transportation project” and also addresses procurement methods. After a number of threats to tack on amendments that could stall the bill, the bill passed on Day 40 and is now heading to the Governor.

SB 169 – This is a GDOT Department bill that redefines what constitutes the state highway system and provides for the appropriations of funds. It also provides for the notice of disposition of property and for electronic accident reports by law enforcement agencies. This bill is now on the Governor’s desk.

HB 106 – This is a GDOT bill designed to be an annual “clean up” bill. The bill concerns laws governing Georgia’s highways, bridges and ferries. It specifically addresses the State’s highway system and those requirements regarding a public road in which the department will utilize funds for the acquisition of right of way. It requires the county to offer the property back to the previous owner only if the county has owned the property for less than 30 years. Additionally, the bill allows for multi-jurisdictional SPLOSTs and cleaned up some language from HB 170 which had already passed. This bill is now on the Governor’s desk.

HB 412 – This is the workers’ compensation reform bill with which we were involved over the past two years. The bill made it’s way to the Governor’s desk on March 31.

Transportation was undoubtedly the main issue within the Legislature this year, however, there were a few other noteworthy issues tackled. HB 1, by Representative Allen Powell, would legalize the use of cannabis oil This measure got caught up in politics in 2014, leaving many children and families in dismay. The bill passed this year and has already been signed by Governor Deal.

Another issue that has been politicized in previous sessions is insurance coverage for autism patients. Through a number of legislative hoops, the bill passed this year. Cityhood issues were, again, a divisive topic for some legislators. Referendums for the cities of Tucker and Lavista Hills passed while the City of South Fulton did not.

You have probably all heard about the fallout the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) from around the country. Georgia’s RFRA bill did not make it past the House Judiciary Committee and there was not enough political will to push it through on the final days.

I want to thank you all for your participation in getting the Transportation Funding Act passed this year. To each of you who reached out to your legislators or made a trip to the Capitol – you made a huge impact! We are excited about the more positive outlook for transportation in Georgia.

Thank you,

David Moellering GA Highway Contractor’s Association

 

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