Atlanta, John Oliver, & Improving Infrastructure

The City of Atlanta is set to vote on two new infrastructure bond referendums, together totaling $252 million, on March 17th. The referendums, one for $187.9 million and the other $64.1 million, are only part of the estimated $900 million in infrastructure improvements that the Office of The Mayor has deemed necessary. The former of the two focuses on repairing “roads, bridges, sidewalks, streetlights, traffic signals, signage and bicycle lanes,” Dave Williams, who covers transportation news for the Atlanta Business Chronicle reports, while the latter “would finance construction and renovation of municipal buildings, including recreation centers.”

This “backlog” of infrastructure investment is not just limited to Atlanta; on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Sunday evening, John Oliver fully illustrated the plight of America’s infrastructure across the nation. “We need to be better,” Oliver said, putting it simply. “When infrastructure fails, bad things happen.” He goes on to point out that infrastructure spending is not a partisan issue and has support from both labor and business groups.

“We need to be better, because when infrastructure fails, bad things happen.”

Evidently, in many cases the problem is that voters just don’t care enough about infrastructure improvements when confronted with the concept of new taxes to support those infrastructure improvements. However, that may be changing in Georgia: a recent poll shows increasing support for slight increases to gasoline taxes to prop up infrastructure funding and legislation is currently being discussed in the state House of Representatives to raise more than $1 billion per year by replacing the gas tax with a 29.2 cent per gallon excise tax.

Unfortunately, this legislation also cuts the state’s support for electric vehicles, eliminating the gracious $5,000 state tax credit and charging $200 per year for private owners and $300 for commercial owners, since EV owners don’t pay into the infrastructure funding through the gas tax.

Additionally, the new legislation “would remove a provision requiring that revenue from the electric vehicles fees go toward transit projects.” Add on top of that the state’s refusal to financially support MARTA and the virtue of this legislation becomes a little less clear.

Oliver’s installment on infrastructure could not come at a more appropriate time for Atlantans, as early voting for this infrastructure bond referendum began on Saturday. So Atlanta, in case you aren’t totally convinced, here’s last night’s episode in full. What’s it going to be?