Jan. 7 – Georgia’s new governor, Roy Barnes, has been meeting with state House and Senate budget writers about midyear budget changes to help tackle Atlanta’s traffic and pollution problems.

Members of the Georgia House and Senate Appropriations Committees have been meeting this week, before the 1999 legislative session starts next week. They’re considering midyear changes to the current budget, which runs through June 30.
Barnes’ proposed spending bill includes $3 million to help start a bus system in suburban Gwinnett County fueled by natural gas. It also includes $1.9 million to evaluate a plan to build a light rail system between Marietta and Lawrenceville in the Atlanta suburbs.
Barnes, who will be sworn in next week, said he is using the measure to begin fulfilling his campaign promise to solve Atlanta’s traffic and air pollution problems. Air pollution in the Atlanta area has jeopardized millions of dollars in federal road funds.
Barnes will have an uphill battle when it comes to mass transit. Many people in Atlanta’s suburbs have shown no interest in commuting via light rail or other mass transit options. State Rep. Steve Stancil from Canton, GA, told the Associated Press, “I know in Cherokee County, people are reluctant to look at public transportation. I’m hesitant for us to make major expenditures before we find out if people are going to use it.”