Poll shows support for gas tax for Georgia transportation

A majority of Georgia voters would support paying higher gas taxes to fund transportation improvements, a new poll released Monday shows.

The poll, conducted for the Georgia Transportation Alliance, shows strong support among Georgians for lawmakers to boost funding for transportation, according to an advance copy obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The alliance is an arm of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which has made increased transportation funding a priority.

The poll surveyed 603 likely voters from Feb. 8 to 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The survey was conducted by WPA Opinion Research of Washington, the firm that accurately predicted now-U.S. Sen. David Perdue would win November’s election without a runoff.

The results show “there is a pretty broad majority of Georgia voters who understand we have transportation problems and they’re looking to their elected officials to lead and solve those problems,” said Michael Sullivan, the chairman of the transportation alliance.

Among the poll’s highlights:

  • 57 percent of respondents said they would “be willing to pay a little more in gas tax” if the money would go toward improving transportation.
  • 53 percent said they would be more likely to re-elect a legislator who voted to increase taxes for transportation by one cent, including 54 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats. Only 48 percent of independents said they would vote for a lawmaker who raises taxes.
  • 62 percent support establishing a dedicated fund for transit systems statewide.
  • 53 percent support lawmakers raising an additional $1.5 billion in transportation funding.

Lawmakers in the House have introduced legislation they hope will raise up to $1 billion in new transportation funding by transitioning the state from a series of sales and excise taxes on motor fuel to a single excise tax of 29.2 cents per gallon. House Bill 170 would also create new fees on drivers of electric vehicles, end a popular tax credit for buying electric cars and dramatically change how local governments tax fuel.

Dave Williams, vice president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said the poll should help inform the debate in the General Assembly.

The bill has “been a topic of a lot of discussion,” he said, while the poll “is the most recent information.”

“It’s scientifically accurate,” Williams said. “We hope members take a chance to study it.”

The results of the poll differ from one the AJC conducted before lawmakers returned to Atlanta in January.

The newspaper’s poll, conducted by Abt SRBI of New York, found that while 58 percent of Georgians believed improving transportation was important, only 36 percent said they would support raising the gasoline tax to fix it.

The AJC poll did, however, find that nearly 70 percent of respondents believed any transportation plan should include more public transportation options.

Critics of HB 170 question the validity of the chamber poll, given that it was paid for by an organization invested in seeing the state boost transportation funding.

Jack Staver, a Republican activist who opposed 2012’s transportation referendum, put it simply: “The whole thing stinks,” he said.

Staver said instead of finding new sources of revenue, lawmakers should first end tax credits for big corporations and prioritize current spending for roads and bridges.

“It’s just a typical dump-it-back-on-the-taxpayers plan,” he said.

HB 170 is currently before the House Transportation Committee, which could vote on the bill this week.

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