It is unlikely that Rep. Regina Quick won any friends at the Georgia Department of Transportation last week with the comments she made at the special session with local governmental leaders organized by the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce.
But it was clear she was not trying to curry favor with the state’s transportation leaders.
“I have some concern that there is a great sucking sound coming from Atlanta, from the transportation office,” she said.
In Quick’s view, the need for additional money for transportation has not yet been demonstrated, and she is not certain that giving any new funds to GDOT is the solution to the state’s transportation problems.
The Chamber called the meeting, as it does each year before the General Assembly starts its January session, so that Quick, Rep. Chuck Williams and Sen. Bill Cowsert could discuss issues likely to come up in Atlanta and hear the concerns of local officials.
Quick represents three of Oconee County’s precincts–Athens Academy, Malcom Bridge and Bogart–while Williams represents the remaining 10 precincts.
Cowsert represents all of the county, but he was unable to attend because of a meeting he was having with the governor in Atlanta. Cowsert was elected last month as majority leader of the Senate.
In the audience for the 90-minute session on Dec. 11 were members of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, of the county’s Industrial Development Authority, and of the Oconee County Board of Education, and representatives from the county’s city governments.
Williams mentioned transportation in his opening comments. He said a joint Senate and House study committee on transportation issues is expected to release its report soon and he expects that to influence what happens when the General Assembly meets in January.
Quick said in her introductory comments that she mostly was interested in hearing from the audience.
Rick Waller, chair of the IDA, was the first person to ask a question, and he wanted to hear more about transportation, and whether the need for roads was going to increase taxes.
Quick said she was “not going to assume that giving more to the DOT to administer is necessarily the answer to anything.”
The alternative, she said in the video below, is to keep that money in the hands of local officials.
More About Roads
Williams and Quick responded to questions about school funding, about communications infrastructure, about policies of the state Department of Revenue, and regarding a variety of other topics.
But transportation was an issue the group returned to, with Oconee County Commissioner Jim Luke asking Quick late in the session to clarify her position on the need for additional tax revenue to meet needs.
Quick said she would consider raising the gas tax only if it is clear about how the money available now is being spent.
“If the DOT is running efficiently and that money is not being spent on excessive engineering fees and other consultant fees and administrative bureaucracy, and is actually being spent on road building, and repair work, and we need it, then the gas tax may have to be raised,” she said.
She expressed doubts that these conditions were being met, and the video below provides details of her response.
Defense Of GDOT
Williams followed Quick’s response with a defense of GDOT.
GDOT is a little like Congress, he said, in that everybody loves their representative in Congress but hates Congress.
“We’ve got a great working relationship here locally with the district engineer and his staff,” Williams said. “They’re real responsive.”
Williams didn’t give names, but Brent Cook is the engineer in charge of GDOT operations in the 21-county Northeast Georgia District.
Full Video Of Session
The full video of the session is below.
I was seated at the rear of the room, and movement of people in the room is obvious in the video.
No microphones were used by the speakers or those in the audience who asked the questions.
The video does pick up the responses of Quick and Williams to the questions.
Oconee County BOC Chairman Melvin Davis (standing in video image below) opened and closed the session.