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Thursday, 08 July 2010 18:48

Georgia Will Try a Region-by-Region Tax to Raise Money for Roads

Georgia's infrastructure has not kept pace with their monumental growth over the last three years; Georgia ranks 49th among the 50 states in infrastructure-spending per capita. Its petrol tax—which funds highway, road and bridge maintenance—is the second-lowest in the country. Georgia’s legislature has long been sharply divided between Atlanta and the rest of the state: telling voters in the rural south, for instance, that they will have to pay higher taxes to fund road improvements in the urban north is politically unpalatable. Georgia’s governor Sonny Perdue signed a comprehensive transport bill on June 2nd that was three years in the making, hoping to bridge all of Atlanta together to help strengthen infrastructure statewide.

The bill divides Georgia into 12 regions, and gives each the power to decide on its own transport projects. Voters in each region will decide by referendum whether to approve a one-cent increase in the sales-tax to pay for those regional projects. Atlanta stands to see as much as $790 million through the new tax.

The bill may also help MARTA, Atlanta’s urban-rail system. It is the largest in the country that does not receive any state funding; it relies instead on passenger revenue and a 1% sales tax in the two counties it serves.

Still, some worry that the regional focus will make statewide projects more difficult: building a rail link between Atlanta and Savannah, for instance, could require the co-operation of rural areas with little connection to either city. Also, the bill is moving slowly, so it may be some time before any changes may occur. The first referendum will not occur until the 2012 presidential primary.


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