Senate Continues Working toward Transportation Reform

Sen. Chip Pearson

Sen. Chip Pearson

By Sen. Chip Pearson
ATLANTA (February 27, 2009) – The overall challenge of this year’s session is to critically examine how to better manage our resources for state government to continue providing an unwavering level of service despite shrinking funds. Determining funding priorities is the main focus behind budget negotiations this year, allowing us to make government more efficient and effective for the people of Georgia.

In the spirit of transforming government into a system that can quickly produce results, the Senate Transportation Committee this week passed a bill that will restructure the state’s transportation agencies into a system that is responsive to the needs of citizens. Dubbed the Transforming Transportation Investment Act, the bill will ensure that transportation projects are started and completed in a timely manner, that funds are strategically distributed where they will be most effective, and that there is a clear management structure over transportation across the state. To do this, Senate Bill 200 merges the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) into a newly created State Transportation Authority (STA), which will have all the functions, duties, responsibilities, and obligations of the former authorities. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) will be charged with the management of the state highway network. STA will have three areas in which to distribute project funds – State Asset Management, State Asset Improvement, and Local Grants. Appropriating transportation dollars to local governments is vital to maintaining roads and streets and funding needed projects. To avoid local governments being forced to raise taxes or put projects on hold due to inadequate funding, SB 200 mandates that at least 25 percent of the State Motor Fuel Funds be dedicated to Local Grants.

Additionally, I am offering an alternative under Senate Resolution 110 that will grant legislative oversight to how the DOT prioritizes projects funded with State Motor Fuel Funds. The General Assembly can help decide what projects to fund first based on a statewide transportation improvement plan and then on the individual needs of communities across the state. At the end of the day, these projects are funded with taxpayer dollars, and we are elected to represent those taxpayers. Their voices should be heard on how their money is spent.

While funding is scarce these days for transportation projects, every area of our economy is hurting financially. We cannot afford to continue allowing harmful practices that drain our state of its resources. Georgia continues to face the threat of illegal immigration that takes jobs away from citizens, further hurting our economy. In an effort to enforce immigration laws, the Senate passed my Senate Bill 20 to prohibit local governments from implementing or enforcing sanctuary policies. A “sanctuary policy” is any regulation that prevents local officials or employees from reporting a person’s immigration status or otherwise providing immigration status information. Local governments that violate this legislation or fail to cooperate with the federal government to report a person’s immigration status will not receive state funding or federal funds administered by the state. It is vital that our state has legislation such as SB 20 to comply with federal laws, to protect our jobs and help heal the economy.

Continuing to respond to the tough issues facing Georgians today, I have authored a bill to help ease homeowners out of the foreclosure crisis sweeping the nation. The measure requires tax assessors to factor in neighborhood foreclosures when assessing the value of a home. Senate Bill 55 recognizes that area foreclosures significantly reduce the value of a home, often times causing a homeowner to pay higher property taxes than is fair. The impact of foreclosures should be included in a home’s assessed value, creating another avenue for which to bring our state out of its current housing slump. The bill has been passed by the Senate and is now making its way through the House.

Next week, the Senate is expected to take up the Fiscal Year 2009 budget. Expect plenty of debate surrounding the measure (HB 118) as the legislature hammers out the details to pass a fair and balanced spending plan.

Sen. Chip Pearson serves as chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens, and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9921 or via e-mail at chip.pearson@senate.ga.gov.

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release:
February 27, 2009
For Information Contact:
Raegan Weber, Director
Kallarin Richards, Senior Communications Specialist
kallarin.richards@senate.ga.gov
404.656.0028