Rusty Paul, mayor of Sandy Springs, Georgia, said a fair user-based tax system and reduced federal regulation is what is needed to fix the country’s beleaguered Highway Trust Fund.
Sandy Springs, population 100,000, is 16 miles due north of downtown Atlanta. The community gets a lot of traffic from trucks, businesspersons traveling to Atlanta and vacationers.
“We just received traffic counts from the intersection of Highway 400 and Interstate 285, that runs through the heart of Sandy Springs, Paul, recently told Ti News Daily. "It’s traveled by 453,000 cars a day.”
And, all that traffic takes its toll.
Paul, a Republican who has been in office since January 2014, said tying the trust fund’s user-based tax into inflation, that’s been proposed in recent legislation, is counterproductive.
“If gas prices drop, people will actually drive more,” Paul said. “So, that means the roads are taking even more wear and tear, but [we're] actually paying less to maintain the infrastructure.”
Paul went on to explain that if a tax is tied into inflation then in order to keep the revenue streams consistent, the tax would have to be tied into deflation as well.
Paul also said over regulation by the federal government acerbates an already exacerbated situation.
“We want to widen 1 mile of one of our roads, but it would take us 10 years to get federal funding due to how long it takes to complete environmental impact studies," Paul said. "You can wait 10 years to complete a project now that takes 10 years to get funding for.”
Sandy Springs is able to make road repairs because of diligent planning and a smart use of revenues. Paul said Sandy Springs spends about one-third of its revenue on capital improvements. The town has fixed more than 180 miles of roads over the past 10 years.
“We’re keeping up pretty well on fixing roads, but not so good planning for long-term projects," Paul said. "You can’t plan 10 years ahead if you’re only going to get six months of financing.”
Paul does not sit on any transportation committees or lobby Washington personally, but he did say he’s in constant touch with his senators and congressional representatives.
“[U.S. Rep.} Tom Price is on the budget committee and hopefully he’ll lead congress in the right direction,” Paul said.
While a staunch conservative, Paul added any long-term funding solution will have to be a bipartisan effort.
“In today’s world you can’t get anything done without bipartisan legislation," Paul said. "It’s the practical thing to do if you want to pass any legislation.”