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SPLOST proposed for regional transportation projects

The people's business

POSTED: March 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
This week we reached the halfway point of this year's legislative session.
The speed of business is rapidly increasing and there is a strong push in the legislature to pass as many bills as possible by the 30th legislative day, also known as "Crossover Day," the final day a piece of legislation can cross from one Chamber to the next.  We have a lot more work ahead of us and have taken a considerable step by passing the Senate's version of the FY 08 supplemental budget, among other important legislation.
The Senate voted Thursday to approve this midyear adjustment to the state budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2008, which ends June 30.  The bill adds $300 million overall to the existing $20.2 million budgeted for fiscal year 2008.  Funds included in the amended budget focus strictly on critical and emergency needs in the state.
I am pleased that the Senate's version includes many of the funds agreed on by the governor and House of Representatives, including $40 million to build new reservoirs and $500,000 for repairs.  The amended budget also includes new funds for improving the state's mental hospitals, for child welfare services and PeachCare.  $6.3 million has been included for the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund, which will be used to clean up sites around the state.  Finally, $53 million will be allocated for trauma funding.   
On Wednesday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow counties to join together and implement a special purpose local option sales tax, on a regional basis, for transportation projects.  A majority of voters in those counties would have to approve levying the tax.
Senate Resolution 845 is intended to address a revenue shortfall for transportation projects across the state and provide a regional solution for counties where the need to reduce traffic congestion or improve area roads and bridges is particularly dire.  The counties collecting the transportation tax, also known as T-SPLOST, would keep 80 percent of the proceeds for projects within those counties. The remaining 20 percent would be remitted to the state, which would be required to spend at least 10 percent of that amount on mass transit networks.  As a constitutional amendment, SR 845 requires two-thirds approval in both the Senate and the House, and majority approval by Georgia voters in the general election this November.
Other important pieces of legislation that passed this week include:
. SR 822: This resolution creates Georgia-North Carolina and Georgia-Tennessee Boundary Line Commission; Adopted Thursday, 52-0; Sponsored by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth)
. SR 722: This resolution creates the Grady Oversight Committee; Adopted Friday, 46-6; Sponsored by Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth)
. SR 748: This bill urges the Grady Health System to adopt changes to its employee health benefits plan to require its employees to use the Grady Health System for primary health care, in addition to urging Fulton and DeKalb counties to consider similar changes to their employee health benefits plan.  The bill also urges the Grady Health System to end its closed staff model and open credentialing to community doctors to encourage other insured patients to utilize the Grady Health System for primary health care; Adopted Friday, 51-2; Sponsored bb Shafer
. SB 395: This bill establishes the Safety Net Clinic grant program for the care and protection of indigent and elderly patients; Passed Friday, 49-0; Sponsored by Sen. Greg Goggans (R-Douglas)

Williams is Senate majority leader and represents the 19th Senate District which includes Long and part of Liberty counties.  He can be reached at (404) 656-0089 or by email at tommie@tommiewilliams.com.
 

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