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National Govt & Politics
Senators urged to consider taxes, tolls, and fees for infrastructure
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Senators urged to consider taxes, tolls, and fees for infrastructure

Senators urged to consider taxes, tolls, and fees for infrastructure

Senators urged to consider taxes, tolls, and fees for infrastructure

As a U.S. Senate committee heard testimony Wednesday on the need to approve a five year plan to authorize federal aid for states to build new roads and bridges around the country, the big question that remains unanswered on any infrastructure bill - both in Congress and at the White House - is still the issue of how to raise more money to fund national transportation needs.

"We certainly see a need for increased revenue," said K. Luke Reiner, the head of the Wyoming Department of Transportation. 

But Reiner was not offering any public suggestions.

"I'm not here to tell the Congress how to fund it," the highway chief told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. 

Panel Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) has vowed to push ahead with a five year transportation bill in coming months, with a committee vote possible before Senators leave town on their summer break.

Both Democrats and President Trump have publicly expressed their support for an over $1 trillion infrastructure plan - but neither side has put down on paper how it would be funded, which is always the third rail of the highway bill debate.

"The gas tax is the easy short term answer," said Max Kuney, representing road building companies through the Associated General Contractors of America, as he noted the federal gas tax of 18.5 cents a gallon has not been increased since 1993.

But at Wednesday's hearing, Kuney and others said the growing number of hybrid and electric vehicles on America's roads shows the gas tax is not a long term answer to funding road and bridge construction needs.

"For example, consideration should be given to imposing an annual registration fee for electric and hybrid vehicles," Kuney added.

That's already being done in some states, as a way to insure that those vehicles pay into the highway system, sometimes paired with an increase in state gasoline taxes.

"In 2015 our legislature passed a five-cent increase to the fuel tax and indexed the rate to inflation," said Carlos Braceras, the head of the Utah Department of Transportation, who told Senators how registration fees had been increased by 30 percent for electric and hybrid vehicles, to insure that they pay more into the funds for road construction.

Utah is one of a number of states - Red and Blue - which have moved to increase their own gasoline taxes in the past few years, knowing that a funding boost from Uncle Sam is unlikely.

As lawmakers work to pass a new transportation bill, one Democratic Senator said it might also be time to consider giving states more leeway to levy tolls as well, with the expanding use of electronic toll collection.

"People go through, charge their Master Cards or whatever, and they're on their way. No muss, no fuss," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), who described how I-95 in his state went from being a parking lot as traffic backed up to pay tolls, to a highway where tolls are paid automatically as cars speed by at 65 mph.

"I think this has really opened up a new opportunity to make tolling a better option for states than we have in the past," said Carper.

Carper also pressed the idea of the futuristic 'Vehicle Miles Traveled,' which would use technology to track how much people drive - and they would pay fees based on their road use.

"There are no silver bullets, a lot of silver BB's," Carper added on the question of transportation funding.

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Local News

  • On Friday afternoon a train collided with a tractor-trailer in Winder at the May Street and Broad Street intersection. The Winder Police Department is asking that motorists avoid the area as they work to clear the roadway.
  • A Hartwell man faces vehicular homicide charges after slamming head-on into a car driven by a University of Georgia student and then leaving the scene, Athens police said. The student, identified as 20-year-old junior Drury Anderson Shierling, was killed about 6 a.m. Wednesday on Timothy Road when the other driver took a curve too fast and crossed into his lane, according to a crash report. The driver who caused the wreck, identified by police as 51-year-old Edward Lee Stowers, was traveling north from the Inner Loop to Timothy Road when his rented 2018 Ford Fusion crossed the raised median and entered the southbound lanes, authorities said. After striking the UGA student, Stowers allegedly got out of his vehicle, flagged down another driver and asked for a ride to a nearby gas station, according to the report. He was arrested after the witness called 911 and told police where he was. Shierling, who was from Leesburg, studied business and real estate, a university spokeswoman said.  Another passenger in the students car was injured in the wreck and taken to a hospital, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.  Stowers is charged with vehicular homicide, hit-and-run resulting in death, traveling too fast for conditions, failure to maintain lane and driving with a suspended license. He remains held without bond at the Athens-Clarke County jail, records show.  In other news: 
  • The Athens-Clarke County Democratic Committee is proud to announce Dinner & Conversation with the U.S. Senate Candidates to be held on Veteran’s Day, Monday, November 11, at the Cotton Press in Athens, Georgia. On the cusp of one of the most important election-cycles in Georgia history, attendees will get the unique opportunity to hear from Sarah Riggs Amico, Jon Ossoff, Mayor Ted Terry, and Mayor Teresa Tomlinson about their vision for Georgia and the United States.   Dinner & Conversation with the U.S. Senate Candidates will begin at 6:15pm (doors at 5:45pm) on Monday, November 11 at the Cotton Press. Attendees will be treated to a delicious family-style dinner as they hear conversations between candidates and our special guests. After hearing from all 4 candidates and finishing apple pie for dessert, attendees will be invited to mingle with the candidates and continue the conversations in a less formal way at our meet-and-greet.   “This is the first, and possibly only, time that Athenians and the people of northeast Georgia will be able to see all of the Senatorial candidates in one location,'' says Denise Ricks, Chair of the Athens-Clarke County Democratic Committee. “It is an opportunity to witness a one on one, in depth conversation with each candidate and have them answer submitted questions. We know voters want to hear where the candidates stand on healthcare, foreign policy, education, and the environment. This is your chance to hear about those issues and to get answers to your questions!”   The 2020 elections will decide the Presidency, not one but both U.S. Senate seats for Georgia, along with every Georgia Congressional, State House, and State Senate seat.    'Make no mistake, the stakes of the 2020 elections are enormous” says Georgia State Representative and Democratic Caucus Leader Bob Trammell. “ Elections have consequences, and the election before redistricting has consequences for the next decade. We can not afford for anyone to sit out democracy in 2020. All hands on deck.' 
  • Hall County state Senator Butch Miller says he is looking at legislation that would protect students from sexual assaults at the hands of teachers. The Republican from Gainesville is pitching a bill he says would clarify existing law on cases in which students are victimized by teachers, coaches, and principals at schools in Georgia.  The next session of the Georgia Legislature begins in January.    From the Ga Senate press office… Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller (R – Gainesville) recently announced legislation aimed at further protecting students from sexual assault by those entrusted with their care. “When legislation we pass doesn’t go far enough to protect our most vulnerable citizens like students in our schools, we must address necessary changes as soon as possible,” said Sen. Miller. “This legislation will fix an oversight in our existing law and will add necessary protections for victims of sexual assault by ensuring their perpetrators can be brought to justice. I hope we can get this legislation passed and to the Governor’s desk as soon as possible during the 2020 Legislative Session.”  Under the current Georgia Code definition for improper sexual contact by employee or agent, sexual assault of a student occurs when the victim is “enrolled as a student at the school.” This specific language was used by the Northeastern Judicial Circuit to send back a case to the state court regarding a coach who was charged with felony sexual assault. According to the decision by the circuit, the felony sexual assault charge did not apply since the accused coach “was not a teacher at the school where the student attended.”  The legislation announced by Sen. Miller will address this issue by revising Georgia code and adding “within the school district” to the existing “enrolled as a student at the school” language. School district will be defined as “any area, county, independent, or local school district.” 
  • The annual Oconee County Fall Festival is scheduled for Saturday. It’s set to take place at Rocket Field in Watkinsville, starting at 9am and lasting through 4pm. From Facebook… The Oconee Chamber Fall Festival started in 1974 and today is known as a premiere Arts & Crafts festival. It is held annually on the 3rd Saturday in October in Historic Downtown Watkinsville. With over 200 booth spaces and 20,000+/- visitors in attendance, this one day outdoor festival is the largest arts & crafts venue in the area.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS Georgia football coach Kirby Smart is keeping one eye on the weather report and another on Kentucky game film with Saturday night's Homecoming Game fast approaching. The No. 10-ranked Bulldogs (5-1, 2-1 SEC) play host to the Wildcats (3-3, 1-3) at 6 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN) looking to shake off a historic upset loss to South Carolina last week. RELATED: Georgia QB legend Eric Zeier shares fixes for offense 'Every player was sick about the performance, just like the coaches,' Smart said Thursday night on his radio show. 'I've always said sometimes the worst thing you can do is play bad and win, because you don't learn the things you need to learn.' No doubt, Georgia's offense sputtered against Power 5 competition the first half of the season, even as the Bulldogs were building a 5-0 record and rising to No. 3 in the ranks. The Bulldogs' offensive objectives and fixes have been well-documented this week as concerns about a wet-weather game have risen. Smart, known for his detailed-oriented nature, typically likes for Georgia to get wet weather work in practices whenever possible. 'I'm concerned about the weather conditions, because you never know what they will be, it's not a variable you can control,' Smart said. 'I like going in the rain once every two or three weeks, but if it's lighting, I can't. 'But we have wet ball drill and we do it once every two weeks, it's on a rolling schedule, so even if you've gone two or three weeks without a wet practice,' he said. 'We spray the ball down, and make the quarterbacks and receivers catch it, throw it, exchange it, (and) kickers, holders, snappers everybody has to. We were doing it (Thursday), spraying it down, making it as hard as possible' The current forecast for Saturday's kickoff (as of Friday) reflected a 100-percent chance of rain in Athens at 6 p.m., with the likelihood of precipitation not tapering off until 9 p.m. Georgia-Kentucky Game Week 7 Georgia players to watch under center 3 keys for a happy homecoming vs. Kentucky Promising Nolan Smith grows, expands role Receivers must step up, beat press coverage Closer look: How Georgia's offense adds up Cover 4: How do Bulldogs get back on track D'Andre Swift says We know how good we can be' Big Ben Cleveland says challenge to go out and prove something' The post Georgia coach Kirby Smart concerned about the weather conditions' appeared first on DawgNation.
  • The Atlanta Braves star first baseman, Freddie Freeman underwent arthroscopic right elbow surgery. Freeman had three fragmented loose bodies cleaned out of his elbow joint, as well as multiple bone spur formations that had developed in his elbow. After putting together an MVP-caliber regular season, Freeman looked like a different player in the playoffs and now it all makes sense. During the NLDS, Freeman was asked about his elbow and told reporters that his elbow was not bothering him. However, fans knew something was not right with the all-star first baseman, who arguably played his worst five-game stretch of his career in the NLDS. Freeman’s -0.46 win probability added (WPA), was the lowest mark for a Braves batter during the NLDS. Freeman’s NLDS stats .200/.273/.400 .673 ops 1 run 4 hit 1 double 1 home run 1 rbi 1 bb 6 strikeouts
  • ATHENS Georgia legend Eric Zeier has played and seen a lot of football as the SEC's former all-time leading passer and current Bulldogs radio color analyst. Zeier is as measured with his opinions as he once was his passes, so his thoughts on fixing the Bulldogs are sure to resonate in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. The No. 10-ranked Georgia football program plays host to Kentucky at 6 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN) looking to get back on track after a shocking 20-17 upset at the hands of unranked South Carolina last week. 'I think we'll get back to who we want to be and who we are this week,' Zeier said on Kirby Smart's coach's show on Thursday night. 'We want to be a big, bruising team that plays great defense, that's able to control the ball on offense. In the critical moments of games we are typically balanced last week we got out of that a little bit.' Zeier suggests versatile and explosive playmaker James Cook could be part of the solution, and he's surprised the Bulldogs didn't look more to him last Saturday. 'South Carolina has been able to get after quarterbacks, we've seen that, (so) I thought we were going to try to get the football out of Jake's hands, utilize the quick game,' Zeier said. 'I was a little surprised we didn't get James Cook more involved in the football game.' Zeier said 'the blueprint is out right now, on how to attack us on the offensive side of the football,' and that 'you've got defenses that are selling all out against the run.' Indeed, Jake Fromm attempted a career-high 51 passes in the loss to the Gamecocks with a career-high three interceptions. Fromm who had not been intercepted in the first five games, also was sacked three times and fumbled away a center exchange. It was not all on Fromm, but Zeier did not give his fellow quarterback a pass. 'It was probably the one time I've seen Jake Fromm miss reads, where we had guys running open, and all of the sudden if you hit that, if the correct read is made and you complete the pass on the seam or going outside, now all he sudden, you look like a genius when you're calling plays,' said Zeier, who finished his career between the hedges in 1994 with 67 UGA records and 18 SEC marks. 'When you miss a couple of reads, make a couple of bad throws, you drop a couple of passes, all those things add up to a bad game all the way around.' Zeier said Fromm had his challenges on account of the Georgia receivers not creating separation. 'We are not creating space, so the windows that we're having to throw the football into, in many cases it looks like an NFL game, where you've got elite defensive backs where your window is extremely small,' Zeier said. 'How do you help receivers get off the jam? Get them in motion, get them moving, so you don't allow a defensive back to come up and get in your face where that first step you've got a problem,' Zeier said. 'You can also utilize slot receivers to get down the seam in quick fashion, get mismatches, get James Cook on the outside as opposed to having a receiver, force defenses into different looks than they are accustomed to, create mismatches with your alignment, and then get movements going and motions going to try to loosen up what defenses are trying to do.' Zeier indicated the forecast for rain at Saturday night's game against Kentucky should not concern Georgia fans, nor should they be worried the South Carolina loss was the start of a new trend. 'Rainy weather, with the way we can go play football, shouldn't be a problem,' Zeier stated. 'I have not one doubt in my mind; that (loss) will galvanize us as a football team and drive us to the level of excellence we have played under Kirby Smart since he's been here.' Georgia-Kentucky Game Week 7 Georgia players to watch under center 3 keys for a happy homecoming vs. Kentucky Promising Nolan Smith grows, expands role Receivers must step up, beat press coverage Closer look: How Georgia's offense adds up Cover 4: How do Bulldogs get back on track D'Andre Swift says We know how good we can be' Big Ben Cleveland says challenge to go out and prove something' The post Georgia legend Eric Zeier shares fixes for offense, key player to get involved appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia football coach Kirby Smart used the phrase 'step up' quite a bit this week. The 20-17 overtime loss to South Carolina certainly wasn't acceptable, and nothing less than a convincing win over Kentucky at 6 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN) will satisfy. RELATED: 5 questions with Kentucky football columnist Here are seven players to watch that all into the 'Step Up' category if the Bulldogs are to evolve into the championship contender they were projected to be: QB Jake Fromm It starts with the quarterback. Fromm is under pressure to bounce back from the worst outing of his career, a performance that brought his talent into question. Heavy rain is forecasted, so it's not likely Fromm will get a chance to prove he can win a game when he throws more than 30 passes (UGA is 0-5 in such games). Fromm will, however, get a chance to show he can pull a teetering offense back together. The junior captain needs tothrow his tight ends and receivers open after an uncharacteristically spotty performance last Saturday. Fromm missed a handful of reads and was not as accurate as he had been the first five games of the season. Center Trey Hill Hill was the weakest link last Saturday on the rotating front line once known as the 'Great Wall.' The mere mention of the nickname draws snickers from opposing fanbases and makes even the most loyal Georgia fans wince. The fact is, UGA's projected starting line played just one game together, at Vanderbilt, before injuries led to bodies shifting in and out and a breakdown in continuity. Hill has remained a constant in the lineup. The sophomore was exposed by South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, and his low, slow shotgun snaps appeared to throw off Fromm's timing. RB D'Andre Swift Swift isn't a big talker, but he made sure to get the message out for everyone to hear that he's not going to accept results like last Saturday's against South Carolina. Smart said Swift had developed into more of a vocal leader, and that was obvious by the fact he came out and publicly took accountability on behalf of the entire offense. A straight shooter, Swift has been honest about his intent to turn pro after this season. It's clear he doesn't plan on the Bulldogs going out with a whimper his final season in Athens. Swift bowed up last Saturday and showed he could handle short-yardage situations. RB James Cook Will Georgia get this exciting playmaker involved this week? Or will Cook go back to being a decoy and/or end around specialist? It's baffling OC James Coley hasn't gotten Cook more touches, but game flow has apparently dictated the ball go to other perimeter threats. Cook would be an easy quick throw into the slot, his ability to make yardage in space superior to any of the receivers. Smart said opponents have schemed to prevent Cook from touching the ball. Good plan; part of the reason the Bulldogs are lacking explosive plays is because explosive players like Cook aren't touching the ball enough. Safety J.R. Reed The Bulldogs need playmakers in the secondary, and Reed's production does not yet match his preseason All-American accolades. Reed is second on the team with 31 tackles behind linebacker Monty Rice, but he has just one interception and three pass break-ups through six games. The senior's talent and savvy is unquestionable. But Reed has yet to show he can play with the level of enthusiasm necessary to ignite teammates and raise the level of play around him. Punter Jake Camarda Can this sophomore punter put two solid games back-to-back? Can Camarda handle a slick ball and snaps in inclement weather? Camarda has been shaky in big moments this season, but he's apparently the best option Georgia has on the roster. The Kentucky game will give him an opportunity to win back some trust and gain much-needed confidence and momentum heading into a pivotal November stretch. Receivers Impossible to name just one with what has happened. Who will step up? Kearis Jackson, Matt Landers? Tyler Simmons? Demetris Robertson? George Pickens? Dominick Blaylock? Maybe all of the above, but whoever lines up at that receiver position needs to show reliable hands and an ability to make yards after the catch. Georgia receivers haven't helped Fromm out much in that capacity, unable to get much separation from coverage, they are often tackled immediately and don't break tackles. Smart said on his coaches show the receivers group has shown the most improvement since the start of this season. But he also said they had the furthest to go. Georgia-Kentucky Game Week 3 keys for a happy homecoming vs. Kentucky Promising Nolan Smith grows, expands role Receivers must step up, beat press coverage Kirby Smart breaks down Georgia offense, keeps it simple Closer look: How Georgia's offense adds up Cover 4: How do Bulldogs get back on track D'Andre Swift says We know how good we can be' Big Ben Cleveland says challenge to go out and prove something' The post 7 Georgia football players to watch against Kentucky, starts under center appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Tom Crean is like any other basketball coach when it comes to stressing fundamentals and going back to basics. But this year's Georgia team is taking it to another level. These Bulldogs, lacking height but filled with athleticism, are aiming to be interchangeable to the extent that UGA doesn't list positions. 'B' for basketball player is the descriptive for each. Crean's message is that he plans to have interchangeable parts from the opening tip this season. The Georgia men's team, predicted to finish ninth in the SEC at the league's media days earlier this week, opens at 7 p.m. on Friday at Stegeman Coliseum against Division ll Valdosta State. Admission is free. RELATED: Anthony Antman' Edwards already making history Crean anticipates a high scoring contest, though he's concerned it could get sloppy. 'We've worked hard on our ball handling and driving, but I'm hugely afraid that with a team like this in Valdosta State, that was fifth in the country in Division II last year in points efficiency, that it could be a track meet,' Crean said on Thursday. 'We just don't want it to be turnover fest.' Georgia returns five players from last season, but 10 of the players are new, including nine freshmen. Freshman Anthony 'Antman' Edwards is the most notable newcomer. He's a projected lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and was widely considered the top prospect in the 2019 signing class. Edwards told media following the Stegmania fan event last Friday that he was working at point guard duties, among many other things. Anthony Edwards Crean explained how the Bulldogs are working to have a versatile team that can change positions on the floor without breaking stride. 'We try to put them in different situations, we have what we call our leopard offense,' Crean said. ' We're a spot team, we're not, You're the 5 man, you're the 2 man,' It's You're in the 2 spot, you're in the 5 spot.' 'The point guard is a little different, but other than that it's spot oriented. We're trying to teach guys a lot of different places to be.' So long as the Bulldogs end up on the right side of the scoreboard, the momentum figures to grow. Georgia set attendance records last season despite a 10-21 mark. UGA has already sold out its season-ticket allotment (5,750) with another 2,000 designated for students unavailable to the general public in the 10.523-seat arena. Georgia coach Tom Crean The post WATCH: Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean ready for track meet' exhibition game appeared first on DawgNation.