Many of you have called wanting to discuss the upcoming referendum on the 1 cent transportation sales tax, T-SPLOST.
I have learned that not all of you will vote for the tax in spite of it being pushed by most local governments and chambers of commerce.
As far as I know, Georgia will be the only state that finances transportation infrastructure through a sales tax imposed on all purchased goods.
If the referendum fails, transportation infrastructure will continue to decline because there is no plan B.
All 50 states are experiencing funding difficulties with maintaining their roads and bridges. Declining fuel tax revenues exacerbate the dilemma, creating serious shortfalls of money to keep roads, bridges and other transportation systems in good shape.
Transportation experts agree the current funding methods, which rely heavily on fuel taxes, are not sustainable.
As the purchasing power of fuel taxes continues to drop, more states are turning back to how transportation improvements were originally funded: Tolling.
In the late 1700s, the new government recognized that passable roads were needed and authorized private turnpike companies to build and operate the roads, charging tolls to cover the costs. With the rise of public highways paid for through fuel taxes, the interest in toll roads declined.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and this crisis has inspired the imaginations of state lawmakers.
States are increasingly turning to public-private partnerships to allow private companies to assume typically public responsibilities such as financing and operating roadways. Thirty-two states allow these partnerships for roads and bridges.
With shortfall funding and new tolling technologies, there is a growing interest in public-private partnerships.
Thirty-six states have toll facilities, and many of these use state-of-the-art electronic toll collection systems that allow drivers to pay without stopping their vehicles, reducing operating costs as well as lines.
Ten states, including Georgia, have developed special facilities called high-occupancy toll lanes. These lanes allow solo drivers to use HOV lanes if they pay a toll. This not only brings in revenue, but eases traffic jams as cars move off congested lanes.
One widely discussed potential gas tax replacement is a fee drivers could be charged based on the number of miles they drive.
This idea draws serious attention because it would include electric cars which do not pay any fuel taxes.
It offers the solution of being able to charge motorists in proportion to the wear and tear they inflict on the roadway.
Sixteen states have planned or implemented pilot projects.
This is similar to the method I proposed to the transportation committee, which died for lack of votes. Highway wear and tear depends on the miles driven and the weight of the vehicle, both of which were included in my suggestion.
The trend is growing for states to borrow money to advance transportation projects.
We did that shortly after Gov. Sonny Perdue took office, and now that has come back to haunt us.
The idea was to use bonds to pay for improvements and pay off the bonds with Georgia's share of the Federal Highway Trust Fund.
Well, the Trust Fund money declined, and now we are having to pay the service charges from Georgia's fuel taxes.
That idea will probably resurface with bonds being paid for from the T-SPLOST if the referendum passes.
I voted for the T-SPLOST bill, not because I favored it, but because it gives you the opportunity to vote.
Transportation money is needed, but you are the ones who will decide if this is the best method of satisfying that need.
Let me know what you think about T-SPLOST.
Rep Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; phone (706) 864-6589; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.