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11/22/01 - MORE STATE FUNDS ARE NEEDED FOR "LOCAL" ROADS

 AVOC COMMENT: Funding for local and state road system maintenance has been in a critical stage for several years. With all of its $Billions in Revenue, the State spends a measly $9 Million a year on the Local Assistance Road Program (LARP). The amount has been stagnant for several years despite efforts of local government officials and others to obtain a more acceptable funding level. Riding on local and state roads shows the cracking and deteriorated state of many, if not most, of our local roads-STATEWIDE. (In Oconee County, as an example, an annual LARP allotment may be about 2 1/2 miles with the County picking up the substantial pre-paving repair cost. For a road system of approximately 350 or so miles, the LARP program will never do the job!). For several years, it has appeared to me that the State has found a way to spend local SPLOST funds and property tax revenues by doing less and less for a basic state function.

ROADS ARE NOT A LOCAL MATTER. Our timber, poultry, agricultural, concrete, lumber, petroleum, retailer (and numerous others) industries, schools, law enforcement and even military need and use our road system. The State needs to take on its rightful responsibility in this area.

However, to long-time observers, it is not encouraging because Governors and Legislators always seem to find pet projects or “new” programs on which to spend all of Georgia’s Billions of revenue while this basic governmental function falls further and further behind.

While serving as Oconee Commission Chair for 12 years, I served as Chair of the Association of County Commissioners Transportation Policy Committee for two years in the mid-nineties and I saw that road maintenance funding is a state-wide problem that has only worsened in the years since. However, I am convinced that a “day of reckoning” is coming. Eventually, a bad winter of ice or other pressures will demonstrate the maintenance condition of most of our roads. As we scramble for emergency funding, let’s not just blame the locals! We need to remember that State Officials did not do their part for a number of years.

Wendell Dawson, President, AVOC, Inc

The Augusta Chronicle

Thursday, November 22, 2001

Senators push for local road funds

By Dave Williams <mailto:mnews@mindspring.com>
Morris News Service

ATLANTA - A portion of Georgia's sales tax on motor fuels that now goes into the state's general-fund budget would be dedicated to maintaining local streets and highways under a bill pre-filed in the state Senate.

But Democratic leaders are giving a lukewarm reception at best to the legislation, which is being pushed by two back-benchers.

The bill, pre-filed last week for this winter's legislative session by freshman Republican Sen. Mitch Seabaugh of Sharpsburg, calls for earmarking 1 percent of the 4-percent sales tax on fuel to the Local Assistance Road Program.

The state also collects a 7.5-cents-a-gallon tax on fuel in addition to the sales tax. All of that money is dedicated to transportation needs.

City and county transportation officials have complained for years that the program is being underfunded, making it hard for them to keep pace with a growing list of bumpy roads that need fixing.

But the gap between their annual requests and the money they get from the Department of Transportation has widened significantly in recent years, despite what - until the past few months - had been a boom economy. This year, for example, local officials asked for $03 million in local Assistance Road Program funding and received $9.1 million.

"Why in the world, with us having a robust economy and record (tax) revenues, was something like road maintenance neglected?" Mr. Seabaugh asked.

Mr. Seabaugh said one Democratic senator, Daniel Lee of LaGrange, has come forward to co-sponsor his bill.

But Sen. George Hooks, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and a supporter of boosting Local Assistance Road Program funding, was noncommittal on whether he would favor the legislation. For one thing, said Mr. Hooks, D-Americus, the bill might have to be introduced into the House first because it involves taxes.

"The concept has merit," he said. "But I don't want to comment on the specifics of the legislation without seeing it or studying it."


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