Georgia Chamber urges legislature to move date of transportation referendum

By Maria Saporta

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is taking a stand. The statewide referendum on a one-cent transportation sales tax should be moved from the primary election on July 31, 2012 to the general election on Nov. 6, 2012.

The Georgia Chamber is encouraging members of the General Assembly, meeting in special session this week, to vote “yes” on moving the date.

The statewide transportation tax (TSPLOST) will be presented to voters in 12 different regions around the state. Each region will be able to vote up or down for the one-penny transportation sales tax.

“This TSPLOST is one of the most important economic development opportunities in our state’s history,” said Doug Carter, 2011 chairman of the Georgia Chamber who is a real estate businessman from Gainesville, in a statement.

“Through it, Georgians will be able to choose between investment and job creation or the status quo, which will leave us far behind the competition,” Carter added. “We believe that a decision this important should be made when the maximum number of people can participate.”

The Georgia Chamber said it was in favor of moving the date of the referendum because there’s usually a lower turnout in primary elections. The Georgia Chamber believes the referendum would have a better chance of passing during the November election.

The statewide organization of business leaders has been a strong advocate for new revenues that can be invested in the state’s transportation system. The TSPLOST is estimated to generate between $16 billion to $19 billion over 10 years. For every $1 billion invested in projects, the Chamber said that will generate $2.5 billion in economic activity.

About half of the dollars are estimated to be generated in the 10-county metro Atlanta area. The other half would be raised in the 11 other regions throughout the state.

The Georgia Chamber is helping oversee the marketing and campaign efforts for the 11 regions outside metro Atlanta. It also supporting the efforts in metro Atlanta, which has its own campaign team working to pass the tax.

“We know that there are strong opinions both for and against the TSPLOST, and the decision made next year will be one that we all have to live with for many years,” Carter said. “While we hope that Georgians will ultimately agree to make an investment in our future, we believe that every voter deserves the right to express their opinion.”

The bill to change the date of the sales tax referendum cleared the House Transportation Committee last week. It now is being held in the House Rules Committee. If and when it clears the House, it will be submitted to the Senate for consideration.

David Pendered contributed to this report.

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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