Measure would reroute DOT

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ATLANTA --- Top senators outlined legislation they hope to introduce this week that would bypass the Georgia Department of Transportation and create a new agency for constructing roads and passenger-rail systems.

The hope is the new agency would get roads built faster, said Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons. He made his comments during a news conference Monday morning.

"I've waited for projects in my district for 13 years, and I'm in leadership and can't get them done for one reason or another," he said. "And every time you go back to DOT, it's a different reason the project is being held up."

The State Transportation Authority would sell bonds to raise money and would get appropriations of taxpayer funds from the General Assembly, while the department gets much of its money directly from gasoline taxes.

Having lawmakers look over the shoulders of the agency would ensure it operated more efficiently than the Transportation Department, said Sen. Jeff Mullis, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

"This new structure will be transparent, will be visible to see where the money comes from, where it goes," said Mr. Mullis, R-Chickamauga.

Lawmakers have often chafed over their inability to control how the Transportation Department spends its money because the gas-tax funds are not subject to legislative appropriations. This new agency likely would be more responsive to the General Assembly since its funding would be largely dependent on lawmakers.

Plus, the new agency would focus on contracting with private companies that would build toll roads to complete projects quicker and at less expense to taxpayers.

Mr. Williams wrote legislation five years ago to encourage more toll roads at the Transportation Department, but none has been built.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson have all been negotiating over the details of the plan since the summer. Some critical details apparently remain unresolved, including whether it would be introduced in the House, the Senate or simultaneously, according to their offices.

Mr. Richardson's office declined to join the senators in describing the legislation as mostly done.

"The proposal, we're still working on it," said his spokesman Marshall Guest.

Mr. Perdue's spokesman, Chris Schrimpf, said the same thing.

"Everything is still being changed and looked at," he said.

Wednesday marks the halfway point in the 40-day legislative session, but the senators said the remaining time would be sufficient to pass even such sweeping legislation.

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dickworth1 02/17/09 - 05:52 am
Oh yes, if you can't fix

Oh yes, if you can't fix something in a department, start a new one and expand government a little more, the taxpayers will pay for it. What an idiotic thing to do, if the dot can't perform,
fire the director and all decision makers and hire new ones!

patriciathomas 02/17/09 - 06:34 am
Another government agency

Another government agency added to the existing will be more efficient? More layers of government is better? How many departments will be dissolved to make room for this new agency?

double_standard 02/17/09 - 10:10 am
Republicans wanting more

Republicans wanting more government. I thought the president was the socialist.

WClark40 02/17/09 - 10:44 am
Good Bad or Indifferent

Good Bad or Indifferent Georgia has the best state transportation department east of the mississippi even on it's worst day it puts Texas and California to shame. It's not broke don't fix it!!!!!

Riverman1 02/17/09 - 12:02 pm
I kind of like it the way it

I kind of like it the way it is with Bill Kuhlke being Chairman of the State Transportation Board that governs the DOT. Nice interchange at I-20 and 520.

jack 02/17/09 - 03:45 pm
The State can't afford to

The State can't afford to give home owners tax breaks but want to create another agency funded by more taxes? Yep, makes sense, doesn't it? RM, all that construction on I-20 and BJ interchange didn't require raping the landscape of all the trees that was done and replaced with those ugly cement noise barriers. Protests to DOT fell on deaf ears.

aftbrn 02/17/09 - 04:53 pm
If you've waited 13 years for

If you've waited 13 years for a project, did you really need it?

DuhJudge 02/17/09 - 05:04 pm
The Commissioner is as

The Commissioner is as powerful as the Governor himself. And that is the way it should be. We have the best roads in the country and they are paid for with the fairest gasoline tax in the country. The General Assembly would love to take control of both where the money is spent and where it comes from. The politicians that arranged the State government many years ago were very smart men and had the best interests of the citizens in mind. Do not let the a bunch of lawyers, doctors and Indian chiefs mess it up. If there is one single thing that differentiates this state from all the others it is the DOT, the tax it is funded with, and the roads it builds.

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