Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday approved a $750 million increase in the state budget for road and bridge improvements, a direct result of landmark state legislation to raise the gas tax and impose several new fees.
The new law (House Bill 170) which took effect July 1, 2015, is resulting in a large increase in gas tax collections despite persistently low prices at the pump, since it is applied to the number of gallons people purchase instead of the sale price. (The new excise tax rate is 26 cents per gallon of regular fuel, or 29 cents per gallon for diesel, which equates to about a 6 cent per gallon increase in the price of gas).
Motor fuel tax collections for the fiscal year to date are at $1.24 billion, which is greater than the Georgia Department of Transportation’s base budget for all of last year.
GDOT has begun ramping up its contracting for road work as a consequence. On Thursday, Commissioner Russell McMurry told the State Transportation board that $191 million worth of projects would be advertised for bid in March.
Going forward, the department will probably average about $150 million worth of new project lettings a month, compared to years past where monthly project lettings averaged $80 to 90 million, McMurry said.
“I think it’s a win-win for everyone because not only are our roads and bridges being maintained and repaired, but its putting people to work and I think that’s fabulous for our state,” said Emily Dunn, who chairs the State Transportation Board.