Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to tout benefits of transportation tax

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April 4, 2015 Atlanta: Gov. Nathan Deal speaks at Liberty Plaza before signing the $900 million transportation bill passed by the General Assembly last session. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Gov. Nathan Deal has scheduled a press conference Tuesday morning to outline the benefits Georgians will soon see from last year’s passage of a sweeping transportation funding bill.

The timing of the event is significant. It comes during the first week of the new legislative session in which some interest groups may try to undo provisions of HB 170, such as a $200 fee on electric vehicles, elimination of up to a $5,000 tax credit for electric vehicles, or a $5 per night hotel/motel fee.

The new law raises about a billion dollars a year to address a huge backlog of road and bridge maintenance projects by imposing a number of new fees and altering the gas tax structure to effectively raise the price of gas by about 6 cents a gallon.

In addition to trying to protect the law, Deal’s comments will likely be aimed at shielding lawmakers who were loyal to him in casting votes for the bill. Many state legislators who approved HB 170 are facing opposition in primary elections this year from challengers who are sure to criticize their vote as a tax increase.

Deal told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December that he planned to unveil a raft of infrastructure projects across Georgia that will be funded by the new revenue. At the time, Deal said he was “quite shocked” by the scope of construction that wouldn’t have happened without the law.

“I anticipate having a map of the entire state of Georgia to show all of the projects – both metro and out of the metro region – that are going to be done with the extra money,” Deal said.

The effects of the legislation, which took effect July 1, 2015, are already showing in gas tax collections. At a December meeting of the State Transportation Board, Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said gas tax collections were about $302 million higher than at this time last fiscal year, which he said was a direct result of HB 170.

A spokeswoman for GDOT declined to comment Monday about the press conference. According to a media release issued by the Governor’s office, McMurry is expected to attend, as well as Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston, GDOT Planning Director Jay Roberts and members of the State Transportation Board.

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