House leaders unveil $1 billion transportation plan

House Republican leaders on Wednesday unveiled a transportation revenue plan that would raise about $1 billion a year and for the first time establish dedicated annual funding for transit.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts, R-Oscilla, said their plan would help the state meet its current maintenance needs and ease a backlog of new projects.

The plan, which will be introduced as legislation Thursday, would shift the state completely away from a sales tax on gas to a 29.2 cents per gallon excise tax. It would eventually end the local sales tax on gas, while allowing counties and cities to levy their own excise tax.

In addition, electric and alternative-fuel vehicle owners will have to pay an annual $200 user fee ($300 for commercial vehicles) with that money being designated for transit.

Finally, the 2016 state budget, which will take effect July 1, will include a “significant” bond package to pay for critical road and bridge improvements as well as $100 million for transit, although details of how that money will be allocated are not yet decided.

A legislative study committee reported last month that the state needs to come up with a minimum of $1 billion to $1.5 billion in new annual revenue just to maintain the state’s current system of roads, bridges and transit.

Ralston, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Gov. Nathan Deal have all publicly given support for raising revenue for transportation, but had not yet offered specifics of where that new money will come from.

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