If you’re an avid reader of Peach Pundit, THE political blog in Georgia, you’re likely reading about the debate surrounding transportation funding in Georgia. The site has published on the topic extensively, and you can navigate over there to PP to read the articles. The latest noted a presentation by DOT Commissioner Keith Golden highlighting Georgia’s $74 billion – that’s with a b – shortfall in funding for necessary projects. For priority projects, that’s a more manageable $15 billion. Still a lot of money.
We can’t deny that finding funding is part of the solution. We need to identify as a state where that money will come from — I’m personally in favor of a better tax rate for gasoline (after all it’s a Fair Tax as you determine how much you pay based on how much gasoline you use) and expanding toll roads (another user fee that ensures the people who use the roads pay for them). However, it doesn’t start and stop there. An unavoidable discussion must surround what value-added activities Georgia uses in building transportation infrastructure. I question the figure of $74 billion. I just don’t buy it.
A series of articles by the International Road Federation discusses some of the reasons why I don’t believe the figure is completely accurate. The causes range from a lack of separating wants and needs to outright corruption, but the impact remains the same. Taxpayers end up paying more and get less return for their invested tax dollars. We just need to look to states like Illinois to see the impacts of corruption. Regardless of the reason, the result is unacceptable.
The study committee would do well to take the time to study what our objectives are, how to show progress in meeting those objectives, and methods to properly oversee the value added by transportation projects. I think if you ask most folks who propose such projects, they’ll tell you they are good ideas. I know there’s someone out there who thinks the Atlanta Streetcar is a good thing…maybe? However, that doesn’t mean that it is. We need to stop making an ass out of u and me in selecting our projects.
This is no time to dither on this important role of the study committee. Charlie Harper, editor of Peach Pundit and an advocate for improving our transportation systems intelligently, will tell you we spend about $.60 cents of what an average state of our size spends on transportation. That should be a warning flag we pay attention to, and our attention should focus on ways to bring that average closer to what we spend as much as identifying ways of bringing Georgia closer to that average. After all, if we’re ever going to tackle this problem and maintain our infrastructure in a fashion that actually puts the problem to rest, we need to do something different.