The Republican campaign for governor continued at the state Capitol this afternoon.
State Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton), in an apparent attempt to attract the attention of metro Atlanta commuters, has introduced HB 1443, which would dismantle the State Road and Tollway Authority as well as the toll on Ga. 400 – which raises $22 million annually.
Quoting from his press release:
“When this project began, citizens and government agreed that the toll would come down when the road was paid for. Yet when Roy Barnes was governor, he directed a change in the legislation that will leave the toll up indefinitely.
“Now more than ever, Georgians should be concerned with their ever-expanding government. Why should taxpayers spend $20 million to run an agency that provides $2 million in road maintenance?”
But this is from an article written last March by my AJC colleague Ariel Hart:
Not only will drivers continue to pay a toll on Ga. 400 through 2011, but they may be paying even more tolls in the future.
As of this fiscal year, the authority owes $26.6 million in principal and interest on the debt incurred by building Ga. 400, said Cherie Gibson, spokeswoman for the State Road and Tollway Authority. That’s less than the $32 million the state has on hand, sitting in reserve accounts. That money represents tolls collected, as well as interest and investments from the toll money.
But Georgia can’t pay off the Ga. 400 debt, authority officials say, because it has to stick to a payment schedule that runs through 2011.
The 6.2-mile extension of Ga. 400 inside the perimeter opened in 1993, and was financed by tolls. Some neighborhoods may have despised the roadway, but it was a hit with drivers and the tolls poured in.
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