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ATLANTA -- Georgia's transportation leaders are considering a yearlong effort to raise Georgia's gasoline tax by as much as 10 cents a gallon, the House Transportation Committee chairman confirmed Tuesday, according to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia has the second-lowest gas tax in the nation, roughly 12 cents per gallon. Advocates would spend the next 12 months trying to sell it to state lawmakers and voters before proposing legislation during the 2005 General Assembly. The wait would get skittish lawmakers past next November's assembly-wide elections, said Transportation Chairman Rep. Paul Smith (D-Rome).
"We've got to face up to the fact that Georgia motorists aren't paying their fair share," said Smith, who took the chairman post last month after the death of Ralph Twiggs (D-Hiawassee), the newspaper reported.
But Smith said he believes resolve against raising the tax is softening as money for everything from repaving projects to congestion relief fails to keep up with demand.
"I think that people who travel realize something has to be done," he said.
At a Tuesday meeting of the House Transportation Committee to prepare for the upcoming legislative session, speaker after speaker told lawmakers the state needs new funding sources for roads and transit, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The need for more cash has been the theme since Gov. Sonny Perdue decided earlier this year to dump an $8.6-billion transportation plan by his predecessor, Roy Barnes. A newly created wish list of transportation projects for metro Atlanta would cost $74.4 billion.
Smith confirmed that leaders pushing a statewide gas tax floated amounts from 6 cents to 10 cents a gallon. A 1-cent increase could raise as much as $60 million, according to some estimates. There also is talk of legislation allowing counties to pass local gas tax increases to pay for transportation improvements within their borders. Such a proposal could be made as early as the 2004 legislative session, which starts in January, according to the newspaper report.