- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday that he will sign a transportation funding bill expected to raise $900 million for the state’s infrastructure needs through changes to the state’s gas tax and new fees on electric cars and hotel visits.

The proposal approved by lawmakers Tuesday night converts the state’s mix of taxes on gasoline to an excise tax of 26 cents per gallon dedicated to transportation expenses. Diesel fuel was set at 29 cents per gallon. The combination is expected to bring in about $700 million, the bulk of new revenue.

In a statement, Deal said the change to gas taxes was necessary to compensate for more fuel-efficient vehicles but no change to the state’s tax since the 1970s.

“Unlike health care and education, there aren’t entitlement mandates that transportation spending keep up with the population growth in our state,” Deal said. “The gasoline tax has long paid for our roads; it’s the most fair fee that you can create because those who use the roads are the ones who pay for them.”

Conservative lawmakers in both chambers opposed the plan during Tuesday night’s vote, arguing it was a tax increase being rushed through with little notice.

“It cannot be denied that what is before you is a massive tax increase,” Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus told Senate members.

The proposal also includes:

- A new $200 fee on electric vehicles.

- A new $5 per night hotel or motel fee.

- A new fee on heavy trucks, $50 or $100 annually, dependent on weight.

- The elimination of the state’s generous $5,000 tax credit for new purchases or leases of electric cars after July 1. Supporters had hoped to have the credit phased out.

- The elimination of a tax break on jet fuel purchases at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The break had benefited one of the state’s largest companies, Delta Air Lines, and other airlines.

Local governments largely were left untouched, except for a $3 cap on the maximum price at the pump that can be used to calculate local fuel taxes. Some counties also have the authority to impose an additional tax for specific transportation projects with eventual voter approval.

Lawmakers have said the total new money for transportation could come to more than $1 billion when $175 million in bonds for transit and transportation projects are included. Deal and others have insisted $1 billion is the minimum amount needed to maintain Georgia’s roads and bridges.

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