State lawmakers willing to consider increase in state gasoline tax | Political Insider blog

9
Nov

State lawmakers willing to consider increase in state gasoline tax | Political Insider blog

On Tuesday, voters handed Republicans in the state Capitol a thick, downy security blanket. They gained no seats in the House or Senate, but the margins of victory were definitive. The GOP hold on power in both chambers may be unassailable well beyond 2020.

The question is what Republicans will do when confronted with the luxury of unshakable authority. The temptation is to say that the past 12 years have been prelude — management at the margins of crises, punctuated by loud feuds over social issues.

But Gov. Nathan Deal, handed a second term on Tuesday, has targeted the state funding formula for Georgia’s 180 school systems — an explosive and core issue, to say the least.

And now leaders in both the House and Senate have dropped broad hints that they’re willing to consider what many Republicans viewed as unthinkable only a few years ago: an increase in the state’s gasoline tax to produce the billions of dollars needed to address Georgia’s woefully underfunded system of roads and bridges.

The increase would come by an act of the Legislature. There would be no repeat of the messy multiregion referendums that were attempted with the transportation sales tax vote in 2013 — which failed in all but a few areas of the state.

Supporters of the venture were encouraged by Tuesday’s vote — with a 53 percent margin — to renew a special option local sales tax in Cobb County, a heavily Republican enclave. And by the overwhelming, 63 percent approval of a $200 million transportation bond referendum in Forsyth County, which is arguably the most Republican county in all of Georgia.

The call for an increase in the gasoline tax would come in December or early January through a legislative/civic animal called the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding, which has been holding meetings across the state since July. Call it the Plan B Committee.

In a debate shortly before last week’s election, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was asked what he expected from the body. “This committee is going to come back with significant recommendations,” Cagle said. “And it does need to be big, and it needs to be bold.”

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