Leaders pass tax measure

ATLANTA --- Legislation setting up a way to pay for passenger rail service finally left the station after decades of discussion and lobbying.

Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee approved by 7-2 a constitutional amendment that would allow local voters to raise their own sales tax to operate a passenger-rail system.

The measure, Senate Resolution 845, would allow cities, counties or groups of communities to give their voters the option to raise the sales tax a penny.

Of the money collected, 80 percent would be directed locally for any type of transportation use, from road paving to salaries for railway workers. Ten percent would go to the state for transit programs, and the remaining 10 percent for any state transportation use, such as airports, sidewalks or highways.

The measure needs the ultimate support of the board for the Department of Transportation and its new commissioner Gena Abraham.