House passes legislation for new statewide penny tax

The Georgia House of Representatives has passed legislation calling for a new statewide penny tax to raise $25 billion over 10 years for new transportation projects.

The vote on House Bill 277 was 149-18. The bill lays out a series of projects that would be funded by the new tax, including the new Interstate 16 / Interstate 75 interchange.

But there would have to be a statewide referendum for the tax to take effect, and there are several steps before that vote could take place. For starters, the House must also approve House Resolution 206, which formally calls for the referendum. The House is expected to do that later today. But the bill and resolution would also have to pass the Georgia Senate, a more difficult proposition, since the Senate has its own funding bill. That legislation would allow individual counties to band together to charge a new penny tax in their jurisdictions, instead of statewide.

"This is the year for us to do something and for us to do something about transportation," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Calvin Smyre, one of many Democrats who joined with Republicans to pass the measure. "It is not the final say. ... We're going to see this again. But I wanted to just come and say that this is a statewide concept."

House Resolution has also passed the House this afternoon by a vote of 151-15.