House Speaker David Ralston proudly claims the proposed transportation plan will provide more than $1 billion annually in new transportation dollars but will not increase state taxes on Georgians.
While this statement is technically not a lie, it is also not truthful enough to be useable.
The new plan is actually a shell game played with transportation tax pieces that have special powers and names like sales, excise and SPLOST.
There are rules to this game to specify which transportation taxes must be spent for transportation and how to bypass that rule to spend some transportation taxes on other things. That practice would stop with a proposed rule to change gasoline taxes from sales to excise.
This new rule is intended to prevent future elected officials from siphoning off money for short-term pet projects, like past and present elected officials have done.
The plan does not neglect those who purchased alternative fuel vehicles that reduce emissions and gasoline consumption.
The “no good deed goes unpunished’’ rule will require them to pay an annual user fee of $200 ($300 for commercial) to help compensate for the taxes they don’t pay on the gasoline they don’t need.
Expect this rule to be applied again if enough people reduce their purchases of heavily-taxed alcoholic beverages.
Former drinkers could pay a user fee for the booze they no longer buy. This is a result of the “sin taxes are good until sin doesn’t pay enough (taxes)’’ rule.
And here’s the best part — our state government can brag about not increasing taxes while forcing local governments to do so.
This is a hybrid of the “unfunded mandate’’ and ‘’rob Peter to pay Paul’’ rules inspired by the Feds but with a distinctive Republican element of “never acknowledge the need for a tax increase or admit this is one.’’
Ralston claims the new plan will bring ‘’our state into the 21st century.”
That started 15 years ago. Georgia is past due for credible and workable transportation plans. Don’t treat this like ethics reform.