The Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast gives legislative leaders the chance to lay out their priorities for the upcoming session.
This year, transportation took the spotlight. House Speaker David Ralston (R - Blue Ridge) announced plans for House leaders to back the creation of a commission to study how the state can better support its mass transit systems.
“We must do more to mitigate road congestion and move freight efficiently,” Ralston told the audience of state business leaders Tuesday. “We have a remarkable opportunity to use transit to achieve both of these goals.”
He said the the Commission on Transit Governance and Funding would consider how the state could better invest in transit, work that will also be taken on by a recently-created, transit-focused House appropriations subcommittee.
But Ralston didn’t say whether he’d back dedicated funding for mass transit. Few of Georgia’s transit systems receive any kind of regular financial support from the state.
He was also clear the commission wouldn’t interfere with existing transit systems like MARTA.
“This is not an attempt to take any over particular transit system,” Ralston said. “Rather, I hope that this commission can recommend ways the state can partner with transit systems as we move forward.”
Gov. Nathan Deal also touched on transportation, providing an update on the state’s a 10-year, $11 billion dollar effort to modernize Georgia’s roads.
“As you know from the orange barrels and cones on our roadways, many improvements are already underway,” Deal said, pointing out that many projects--like the widening of I-85 north of Atlanta and I-16 near Savannah--would move along ahead of schedule.
Deal also announced a bump in the state’s "rainy day" fund, which tops $2 billion and the creation of a cybersecurity training center in Augusta.
But, overall, the governor’s remarks were short on big policy initiatives. It seems he’s saving those for his annual State of the State address scheduled for Wednesday.