Nathan Deal's plan to defend the $1B transportation bill

Gov. Nathan Deal hopes to defend lawmakers in hot water for supporting the plan to bring in about $1 billion a year for transportation with an outreach effort that he said will present the construction as "the biggest visible evidence of tax reform" in recent Georgia history.

The governor urged civic leaders at the Council for Quality Growth's annual meeting to support the "tenacity and courage" of the lawmakers who bucked anti-tax pledges and voted for the measure despite the threat of primary challenges.

"I'll do anything they asked me to do. They've shown courage in voting for it, and it's proven to be a huge success," he said after the meeting. "And when we see the projects that are going to be paid for by virtue of their efforts, the public will likewise respond appropriately."

He's referring to an initiative the Georgia Department of Transportation will soon unveil that highlights a range of infrastructure projects across Georgia to be funded by the new revenue. He said he was "quite shocked" by the scope of construction that wouldn't have happened without the law.

"I anticipate having a map of the entire state of Georgia to show all of the projects - both metro and out of the metro region - that are going to be done with the extra money."

The new law lifts the gas tax for the average driver about 6 cents a gallon, imposes a new $5 per-night charge on hotel fees, levies a new annual fee of at least $200 on electric vehicle owners and ends a a lucrative tax break for their. Heavy trucks will also face a $50-$100 fee.

Deal and other powerful supporters of the law, including the Metro Atlanta Chamber, have their work cut out for them.

Anti-tax crusaders, tea party members and fiscal conservatives have lobbed unrelenting attacks at supporters of the plan, which Republican state Sen. Bill Heath called “the largest tax increase in Georgia’s history.” Several of the measure's GOP supporters already face the threat of primary challenges from their right flank.

The governor cast the upcoming initiative as the latest in a series of defensive measures for the law's supporters.

"It's probably going to be the biggest visible evidence of tax reform and the results of it that we have seen in this state in a very, very long time."

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.