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Mayor urges citizens to reject proposed transportation bill
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Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan is urging citizens in the city and county to reject a proposed transportation bill floating through the state capitol.

"This bill right here would kill us as far as in the future," he said during last week's city council meeting.

"We need to contact our representative Kevin Tanner and our state senator Steve Gooch. We really need to express our alarm on this bill and request that they vote no on it...because it's going to cost all the cities in the state of Georgia and the counties a lot of money."

Grogan was among numerous city and county leaders across the state raising objections to the $1 billion transportation plan that would do away with the motor fuel sales tax, converting it entirely to an excise tax.

"So we're going to be losing a lot of money on that," Grogan said. "We wouldn't be able to build a park. We wouldn't be able to revitalize downtown. We wouldn't be able to do our infrastructure improvements, if this bill goes through as written today."

Dawson County officials took a different approach, saying they planned to wait a bit before making a formal statement on the proposed bill.

"There's still a lot of debate about what's going to come out," said Commission Chair Mike Berg. "I think we just need to hold tight and see what's going to go on. I would suggest...that we wait until at least we know what that bill is going to be."

On Monday, Republican leaders previewed changes to the bill in an effort to soothe county and city officials unhappy with the initial plan.

The new plan hinges on switching Georgia's gasoline taxes to an excise tax, which is constitutionally dedicated to the state's transportation needs.

Local government representatives said that will leave them scrambling to cover large holes in budgets for cities, counties and school districts.

Local government currently receives a share of the sales tax, but would not receive any of the excise tax.

The original proposal allowed cities and counties to approve up to 3 cents per gallon each in excise taxes, plus up to an additional 3 cents each by referendum.

That has now been dropped from the package.

Instead, sponsoring Rep. Jay Roberts said local boards can vote to add up to 6 cents per gallon in excise taxes on top of the state's planned 29.2 cents per gallon.

Municipal officials would have to agree to spend the money on specific transportation needs, with their share determined by a formula already in use by the Georgia Department of Transportation, said Roberts, an Ocilla Republican.

Roberts said the changes will "hopefully" close the gap for some local government agencies, but acknowledged there may be cities or counties receiving less under the proposal.

The changes unveiled Monday before a House subcommittee also would eliminate the state's $5,000 tax credit on electric vehicles. Roberts said that would generate about $45 million to be put toward a bond package.

DCN regional staff contributed to this report.