Lawmakers want to replace the tax with a 50-cent flat fee, plus a 25-cent fee for shared rides. The fee would also apply to taxi and limousine rides. Beach and Tanner said the legislation is a priority.
“We’re hopeful we’ll get that done,” Tanner told the business group.
The bill would dedicate revenue from the fee — up to $40 million — to public transportation. Such a dedicated source of revenue is a long-sought goal of transit advocates.
On the other hand, Tanner's plans for a sweeping expansion of rural transit programs in Georgia is likely dead for this year.
“It’s not going anywhere,” Beach said. “Period.”
Both lawmakers say efforts to improve freight movement in Georgia should continue to move forward. Last year Beach and Tanner chaired a commission that recommended spending up to $121.5 billion over 30 years to remove traffic bottlenecks and aid freight moving from the Port of Savannah.
The commission plans to recommend ways to raise money for that work later this year. But lawmakers must first approve legislation extending the commission. Both chairmen predicted it will pass.
But the budget remains the biggest issue lawmakers face. Major road construction projects likely will continue despite expected budget cuts.
But Beach hopes another federal stimulus package will focus on infrastructure spending — without the usual federal strings attached. He said Georgia needs something akin to the relaxation of federal rules that helped clear the way for the rapid reconstruction of a section of I-85 destroyed by fire three years ago.
“I’m not saying every project can be built in six weeks,” Beach said. “But we can expedite projects.”