Over the past several decades, Georgia's population and economy have grown rapidly, and an extensive transportation system has played a major role in that success. In recent years, however, growth has outdistanced the system, leading to performance gaps that have jeopardized Georgia's prosperity and the quality of life of its citizens.
The logistics of efficiently, safely moving people and products in a cost-effective way is a complex problem, but it's a challenge that we must meet, for the cost of failure will be far greater than the price of success.
So, how do we proceed in providing for Georgia's transportation future? I believe we should begin with a disciplined, outcomes-based strategy to improve transit mobility in metro Atlanta, upgrade transportation infrastructure in mid-sized cities and rural areas, and move freight smoothly to and from Georgia's growing ports.
As Governor, I will work to improve statewide oversight of all planning and funding between transportation agencies, and will bring more transparency to the accounting practices and decision-making processes followed by transportation agencies. By promoting better efficiency and higher accountability, we will in a better position to monitor the awarding of transportation contracts, reduce cost-overruns, waste and mismanagement, and get more mileage out of each taxpayer dollar spent on maintaining and improving Georgia's transportation system, not just for metro Atlanta but statewide.
I will also work to get full benefit from taxpayer dollars by trying to recapture 100 percent of the funds already being collected from motor fuel taxes to fund transportation projects:
*The federal government collects 18.4 cents per gallon to feed the Federal Highway Trust Fund, but only 90.5 percent of the taxes Georgia sends to the federal government are returned for transportation funding. Georgia must stop being a "donor state" and, instead, receive a full return on the gas taxes we send to Washington.
*Georgia also has a 4 percent state sales tax on motor fuel, but only 3 percent goes toward transportation, the other 1 percent goes into the General Fund. We need to recapture that 4th penny of every dollar spent on gas and bring it back to transportation.
There is, of course, much more to be said about the challenge of building a 21st century transportation system for Georgia, but I believe that this task can best be accomplished by increasing the professionalism and integrity of the decision-making process, and practicing the fiscal responsibility that Georgians expect and deserve. Efficiency, mobility, safety and convenience can be the hallmarks of Georgia's transportation system, if we take the right steps, and take them in the right way.