The old saying “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades” can certainly be applied to the 2008 Georgia legislative session.
Although we certainly came close, one of the biggest disappointments of the session was our inability to address funding for the future transportation needs of our state.
And although we failed, it certainly was not due to a lack of effort. A number of different bills were introduced and in the end one bill, SR 845, passed the house only to end up three votes shy of the two-thirds majority required to pass the Senate.
SR 845 was a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would have allowed counties to band together and charge a 1-cent regional sales tax to pay for transportation projects. A list of projects and their priority would have been established and each county would decide whether to opt out of the region’s tax vote.
Another attractive component of the resolution was that 90 percent of the taxes collected in the region would stay in the region and the other 10 percent would go to the state for statewide projects.
Still, some legislators called it a tax hike and were reluctant to support the resolution even if it allowed the people to vote on it themselves.
Because it would have been a constitutional amendment for the people to vote on, Gov. Sonny Perdue would not have been able to veto it. However, fearing that it would have taken transportation policy out of the hands of the state, Gov. Perdue opposed the resolution and promised to campaign against its passage.
While we were certainly disappointed in our failure to come up with a future transportation plan, the problem hasn’t gone away and still must be addressed. In recognition of this, Gov. Perdue and the State Transportation Board earlier this summer came up with the concept of developing a guiding strategy for improving Georgia’s statewide transportation network.
Called Georgia’s Investing in Tomorrow’s Transportation Today (IT3) initiative, the goal of the program is to bring the state’s transportation agencies — the Department of Transportation (GDOT)and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) — the General Assembly, local partners and the executive branch together to improve transportation infrastructure throughout the state by coming up with common strategies.
Included in the infrastructure improvements for the statewide plan will be roads and highways, public transit, bridges, airports and seaports.
The idea behind the initiative is to get public input on things such as what projects are needed and where they should go as well as whether transit systems should be kept local or made regional or even statewide and whether existing HOV lanes already built with tax dollars should be tolled and converted to HOT lanes.
And although it has not been advertised as such, it will also be an opportunity for citizens to comment on policy decisions affecting statewide transportation such as whether the current state law requiring 80 percent of GDOT’s funding to be split evenly among congressional districts should be eliminated.
A Web site has been set up — www.IT3.GA.gov — that will provide citizens an opportunity to comment on-line and to follow the progress of the initiative.
Tuesday of this week from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. at the Coastal Georgia Center on Fahm St. GDOT Commissioner Gena Abraham Evans and GRTA Executive Director Dick Anderson will hold a listening session to give citizens the opportunity to voice their concerns.
I urge you to attend. The future transportation plans for our state remain to be addressed and the opportunity and need for citizen involvement is now.