DALLAS – Georgia's $23 billion midyear supplemental state budget signed by Gov. Nathan Deal last week funds $758 million of new transportation projects with revenues from last year's gasoline tax increase.
The supplemental budget, which extends through the end of fiscal 2016 on June 30, was passed unanimously by the General Assembly. The bill, the first major legislation adopted in the 2016 session, was adopted by the House in late January and by the state Senate on Feb. 18.
The $758 million of new road and bridge projects account for most of the $1 billion of new spending in the budget measure. The supplemental budget also includes $110 million for public school districts faced with rising enrollment and $70 million of one-time funding to expand medical school programs at Morehouse College and Mercer University.
The extra road funding is available because of House Bill 170, the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, which was enacted in April 2015. The measure is expected to provide up to $1 billion per year of new money for state road projects.
The measure replaced a 7.5 cents per gallon fuel tax and a 4% sales tax on motor fuels that generated about 19.3 cents per gallon of fuel with a gasoline tax of 26 cents and a diesel tax of 29 cents per gallon. Georgia state taxes and fees total 31 cents per gallon of gasoline and 34.66 cents per gallon of diesel.
Other provisions included an annual impact fee of up to $100 for heavy commercial trucks and a $200 annual registration fee for electric vehicles to replace a $5,000 state tax credit.
A new state hotel room tax of $5 per night authorized by HB 170 is expected to generate $150 million per year for transportation projects.
Deal announced a comprehensive infrastructure maintenance program in January that included $2.2 billion of projects within 18 months and another $10 billion of transportation infrastructure projects over 10 years.
The multiyear effort would not be possible without the extra funding from HB 170, Deal said on Jan. 12.
"One year ago, I stood before the General Assembly and urged members to prioritize Georgia's transportation needs," he said. "In order to maintain our roads and bridges, improve congestion and accommodate the movement of freight traffic, we could no longer afford to kick the can down the road. Today, we are delivering on our promise."
Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry told the State Transportation Board on Feb. 17 that $191 million of projects would be advertised for bids in March. Contract awards are expected to average $150 million per month in 2016, up from $80 million to $90 million per month in previous years, he said.
The state intends to use more public-private partnerships to finance transportation projects, McMurry said.
Revenues from the state's motor fuel tax and other transportation levies total $1.4 billion so far in fiscal 2016, which is more than the Georgia Department of Transportation's budget in fiscal 2015.
Motor fuel tax collections in fiscal 2015 before the new funding measure went into effect totaled $1 billion, with $849 million for Georgia DOT and $157 million allocated to debt service on state general obligation bonds.
The five-year, $305 billion Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act enacted late last year will provide Georgia with $1.31 billion of federal highway funding in fiscal 2016, up from $1.24 billion in fiscal 2015. Georgia will receive a total of $6.84 billion from the FAST Act through fiscal 2020, an average of $1.37 billion per year.