Perdue favors building up DOT coffers

Associated Press
Sonny Perdue: Governor pushes for more county voice in highway funding as he attempts to break a stalemate.

ATLANTA --- Georgia motorists could see a boost in transportation funding soon with Gov. Sonny Perdue's announcement Thursday that he supports adding $300 million a year over the next decade and letting voters decide by regions if they want a sales tax to supply even more money.


Mr. Perdue's announcement represents his first public effort to settle a two-year dispute between the House and Senate on whether to ask voters to raise the sales tax for transportation statewide or in individual counties.

Business organizations have been disappointed that he has waited so long to weigh in, but the governor said he was reluctant to add more funding to the Department of Transportation until it improved its management in the wake of news it overspent $456 million in 2008.

Mr. Perdue said he's satisfied things are better now that a new law allows him to determine which roads get built with gas-tax funds, rather than letting the agency's board decide.

With interest rates low -- below 3 percent when the state sold bonds last month -- it means repayment of the $300 million in 20-year bonds would be a bargain now, he noted.

The legislature would decide which roads to build with the bond money. Voters would get the say on boosting the sales tax.

Each county would negotiate with other counties within the state's 12 regional planning districts over which projects to fund and how the money would be divvied up among the counties.

Mr. Perdue gave the details first to Republican lawmakers Thursday morning, although leaders from the House and Senate had been trying for months to hatch their own compromise.

Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, predicted nothing would pass without more give and take.