Legislative leaders keep transportation tax alive in conference committee

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ATLANTA -- A transportation sales tax could still pass during the 10 days remaining in this year's legislative session, senior Senate leaders said today.

Gov. Sonny Perdue's transportation legislation failed to pass by Friday's midnight deadline for statewide bills to remain viable in the session. After 18 hours of meetings in the House Transportation Committee, Perdue's bill was heavily amended but never reached the House floor for a vote.

But the House and Senate have appointed conference committees to negotiate agreement on a transportation deal by using a Senate bill and a Senate constitutional amendment that both passed last year as a legislative vehicle. However, the conferees will center their discussions on provisions proposed by Perdue, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams.

"It will be the governor's bill, as it is," he told reporters Tuesday morning.

In the two previous sessions, conference committees have failed to reach agreement on a transportation-funding plan. All proposals would allow voters to raise a 1-percent sales tax, but they differ on whether voters would decide statewide or in some type of districts.

Asked if the short time left in the session could result in agreement escaping legislators yet again, Williams said not with the current approach.

"With a conference committee, we can technically put a deal together and put in on the floor any time," he said. "I think most of the Senate is OK with bypassing the normal committee process and moving straight to a conference committee."


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