Atlanta traffic solutions may require tax hike

ATLANTA — There's no disputing that Atlanta's traffic is among the worst in the country. However, paying to improve it is dividing lawmakers who are debating a possible tax increase.
Republican leaders say everything is on the table when the General Assembly meets in January, including an increase of the state's sales tax on gas.
The tax is the primary funding source for Georgia's Department of Transportation.
"There's just simply not enough dollars coming in to even maintain the system we have now," political analyst Charlie Harper told Channel 2 political reporter Lori Geary.
Harper is the editor of political blog Peach Pundit and the executive director of Policy Best, a bi-partisan advocacy group working to solve Georgia's statewide problems.
Harper says a lot of the fat in Georgia's DOT budget has been trimmed -- staff levels have been cut by a third since 2002.

He says the cost of maintaining Georgia's roads and bridges is about $600 million to $900 million a year for the next decade. A list of essential new projects will cost another $15 billion over ten years.
Harper says Republican leaders have little choice but to look at tax increases.
"It's not a scare tactic; it's just where we are.  As the pump prices fall, the money going in to handle the infrastructure we have now is just frankly not there," Harper said. 
Geary first reported last week that Gov. Nathan Deal has issued an executive order that keeps the sales tax on gasoline the same even though the price of gas is dropping.
The change means Georgians will pay 2 cents per gallon more.
Deal told Geary the order benefits consumers, because money is funneled back into road projects.
"This really is about being honest and leveling with the people of Georgia. Understanding we've deferred this for a long time frankly," Harper said. "You need to pay the piper."
Already some conservative groups, like the Atlanta Tea Party, are coming out strong against any kind of tax increase.
State lawmakers are expected to release their options at the end of this month.