The urgency of now.
That could be the theme of the Get Georgia Moving Coalition, which held a press conference today in the rotunda of the state capitol.
The coalition, which represents about 100 different organizations advocating for new transportation funding, is hoping that a constructive compromise between the Senate and House bills will emerge this week.
One compromise that’s being floated would first give voters an opportunity to approve a statewide sales tax (vote would likely occur in 2010); and that if that vote failed, then there could be another referendum where voters could approve a regional approach to new transportation funding.
But there’s a problem. If the statewide referendum fails (and it’s far from certain that voters across the state would approve a penny sales tax), it could be as long as 2012 before the Atlanta region could vote on new transportation funding.
So while any compromise would be a step in the right direction, some business leaders are concerned that this compromise could prolong the agony of traffic and congestion.
“The longer we wait, the move expensive it becomes,” said Bill Linginfelter, president of Georgia and South Carolina for Regions Bank and co-chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s transportation committee. “We are in support of a solution this year that leads to a vote in 2010.”
After the press conference, Linginfelter reiterated that the business community believes that a regional sales tax “makes sense for us.”
Doug Hertz, CEO of United Distributors Inc. who is the other co-chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s transportation committee, made it clear that time was of the essence, and that the possibility that there wouldn’t be a regional vote until 2012 was a concern.
“We are not going to be thrilled with having to wait another two years,” Hertz said.
“And that’s an expensive proposition,” Linginfelter chimed in.
But both men don’t want a repeat of last year’s session when the transportation funding bill failed to pass because of three ‘no’ votes in the very last hour of the session.
“We were so close last year,” Linginfelter said. “It was a heart-breaker.”
And if history repeats itself? “We are not going to go away,” Linginfelter said. “This is too big an issue to go away.”