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07 November 2008

Transportation Issues Should Dominate 2009 Legislative Session

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of the do-nothing 2008 legislative session was the failure of the General Assembly to pass a constitutional amendment that would have allowed local counties to add a 1% sales tax to fund transportation projects.

The bill, Senate Resolution 845, failed by three votes in the state Senate on the last day of the session.

In this morning's Atlanta Journal Constitution, it's being reported that activists are hoping for more transportation funding. However, in these tough economic times, budget cuts are more likely than increased spending.

Meanwhile, William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, an advocacy group of mass transit companies and government agencies, says that Atlanta is about to be "left in the dust."

Millar pointed to cities like Charlotte, Denver and Salt Lake City that are building or expanding their mass-transit systems. He said they will be able to draw more employers with good jobs and offer a better quality of life.

Millar’s words echoed a warning last year from a top national business-relocation consultant who told the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce that some employers were rejecting Atlanta as a potential place to bring jobs, because of traffic congestion.
[Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Call made to extend mass transit", November 7, 2008]

There's no doubt that Georgia's answer to transportation is to build more roads rather than finding ways to get people out of their cars and onto mass transit. And there can be no further doubt that when it comes to mass transit funding, Georgia has an abysmal record. This state is still the only state in the union that provides no funding for mass transit.

In the coming 2009 legislative session, that has got to end.

We have got to pass transportation legislation such as providing counties such as Clayton the opportunity to vote again on bringing MARTA to their area. We've got to find a way to provide MARTA with state funding without breaking the bank in this economic downturn. And finally, we have got to push through S.R. 845 so that Georgians will have an opportunity to vote on funding transportation projects in their local communities.

Quite simply, the economic future of this state depends on the 2009 Georgia General Assembly enacting meaningful, long-term transportation laws.