Georgia Transit Association (GTA) adopted this position because the 2009 House legislation does not fully address its funding principles or the comprehensive transit needs of the state: it does not include funding for general capital and operations of existing transit systems in rural areas or the Atlanta metro area, it results in voters in many instances having to tax themselves for large capital transit projects while not being able to maintain existing transit services, and it contains no safeguards that funds earmarked for transit projects will be used for other transit purposes if those projects do not come to fruition.
In addition, while SB 200 affects reform in the planning, funding, and delivery of transportation projects in Georgia, it is unclear how the new funding categories will affect transit. The bill appears to allow funds for capital construction but not the purchase of vehicles, which comprises most transit capital expenditures.
GTA urges the General Assembly to seek alternative sources of revenue to increase funding for all modes of transportation, including capital and operating support of public transit systems, both urban and rural. Only options which supplement but do not replace current funding should be considered, and current governance and financing laws should be reviewed to remove any barriers to the facilitation of transit projects.
Tax Exemption from Motor Fuel Purchases by Transit Systems
Local governments in Georgia have few alternatives to the property tax for funding transit systems for capital or operational purposes. In passing HB 1035 in 2008, the General Assembly extended current law granting an exemption from taxes on motor fuel purchases by transit systems until June 30, 2010.
This exemption is likewise authorized in 22 other states, thus helping transit systems to lower their operating costs. However, it is important that the MFT exemption allowed to Georgia’s transit systems be made permanent and not require General Assembly reauthorization every two years. This approach would be similar to that applied to other governmental entities in Georgia (e.g., counties, municipalities, and the university system) whose sales tax exemptions do not have to be periodically extended by the General Assembly.
GTA requests that the General Assembly enact legislation authorizing the permanent exemption from taxes paid on motor fuel purchases by transit systems.