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On the road to solving transportation funding
burns jon 2015
State Rep. Jon Burns

The activity surrounding each legislative session is always a combination of fast action with periods of slow-moving, tedious meetings as legislation is researched, deliberated and reconciled before the actual vote. This session was no different and each day was used to the fullest as we set our sights on tackling some tough issues for the betterment of our state. The following is a summary of some of the major accomplishments and most significant legislation passed this session.

One of the most pressing concerns of this session addressed the deteriorating conditions of our roads, highways and bridges, particularly as Georgia continues to experience growth in the manufacturing and shipping industries. Therefore, one of the most important pieces of legislation that we considered was the transportation funding bill, or House Bill 170. The solution that was agreed upon is sound and beneficial for our state.

We settled on an excise tax of 26 cents for gas and 29 cents for diesel, which replaces all current excise and state sales tax levied on motor fuels. This excise structure will help us capture portioned tax dollars from long-haul truckers who use our interstates. This will bring in $50 million a year to fund transportation projects. In addition, we eliminated the sales tax exemption on fuels used by commercial air carriers.

We also eliminated a $5,000 state income tax credit for the purchase of an electric vehicle and placed what is essentially a user fee for owners of electric vehicles, who use the roads without paying taxes through fuel surcharges. We added an annual user’s fee for 18-wheelers, since their usage has a detrimental effect on our roads and heavy trucks will be charged a fee depending on the vehicle’s weight. The bill also creates a new $5-per-night hotel/motel tax to be applied statewide, and it is estimated to fund $200 million a year.

Altogether, the solutions outlined in this bill will raise $900 million annually to pay for our state transportation needs. Ultimately, this legislation takes a balanced approach to a crucial project that will sustain economic growth and quality of life as we keep up with the needs of growing industries in Georgia.

In health care news, Haleigh’s Hope Act, or HB 1, was legislation that received much attention this session and one that I fully supported after careful research. This legislation will allow the use of low-THC oil derived from cannabis plants for the treatment of chronic illnesses such as cancer, MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, mitochondrial and sickle cell diseases. This legislation does not make Georgia a “medical marijuana state” and because the bill was written carefully, we can rest assured that the use of cannabis oil cannot be exploited for recreational purposes.

In addition, to ensure responsibility, the Department of Public Health will oversee patient registration and physician oversight. Families with children who suffer from chronic seizure disorders across Georgia celebrated as this treatment has proven to greatly alleviate this terrible illness.

We heard testimony from parents of children afflicted with 100-200 seizures a day who traveled to other states so that their children could receive this treatment. I believe that this legislation is responsible and one that can help many suffering Georgians.

Thank you for allowing me to represent you! Although the legislative session has concluded, your comments and concerns are always important to me. Please feel free to contact me at (404) 656-5099 or at