Business groups seek consensus on transportation

The top business groups in the state have started to work more closely together to figure out if there can be consensus on a possible transportation funding bill.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce reached out to the Metro Atlanta Chamber saying it wanted to work on a transportation funding bill that would fit inside the new transportation governance structure for both metro and statewide projects, according to Michael Garrett, chairman of the Georgia Chamber and president/CEO of Georgia Power.

“We feel that it is imperative for the chambers to find a proposal that we can both endorse,” Garrett wrote me in an email this afternoon. “We agreed that the sooner we began the evaluation of the options, the better we would be prepared to sit down and discuss the issue with state leaders prior to the next legislative session.”

The closed meeting, which also included representatives from the Get Georgia Moving Coalition, took place this morning in a conference room at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The coalition includes as many as 75 organizations interested in transportation in Georgia. Some are road builders, some are business groups, some are transit advocates and others are environmentalists.

The business group that met earlier today decided it was important to get started as early as possible to reach a consensus.

Metro Atlanta Chamber President Sam Williams said that part of the task will be to undergo comprehensive polling to find out what kind of transportation funding bill voters would approve and to figure out the best way to sell it.

There are two camps. One camp supports the House of Representatives’ version calling for a statewide penny sales tax for transportation. But there’s concern among others that such a tax wouldn’t be able to pass statewide.

The second approach would be to have regional sales tax for transportation, which would enable metro Atlanta counties to work together on a plan.

But the General Assembly must give its approval on such a referendum. And there’s concern that a tax dedicated to solving metro Atlanta’s transportation problems, would not get the majority support among legislators.

So the real question is whether a hybrid option exists and whether a partnership between the Georgia Chamber and the Metro Atlanta Chamber will be strong enough to break the logjam at the legislature.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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