Metro Atlanta Chamber leaders pleased with progress at the state legislature

By Maria Saporta

The executive committee of the Metro Atlanta Chamber was relatively upbeat about this year’s legislative session.

At its meeting this morning, the executive committee heard from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Tad Leithead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Both Cagle and Leithead expressed optimism that progress was being made on a transportation funding bill that would allow regions to vote in a one-cent sales tax for their transportation needs.

“The bill has been introduced,” said Bill Linginfelter, the 2010 chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Regions Bank area president for Georgia and South Carolina. “The fact that we have a bill out there as good as this one is, is very good and very promising.”

There are probably a few parts of the bill that could use tweaking, Linginfelter said, but he is pleased with the progress that’s been made.

For the last several years, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and other business organizations have been working hard to get such a transportation funding bill through the legislature.

Two years ago, a regionally-based transportation funding bill passed the House, but fell three votes shy in the Senate.

Last year, a regionally-based transportation funding was passed by the Senate. But the House leadership at the time favored a statewide transportation referendum. The bills died in the last hour of the last day of the session, which infuriated the business community.

This year, Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed a bill that would divide the state up into 12 regions. Voters across the state could vote to tax themselves on a transportation sales tax. But the vote would be tabulated region by region.

Given the traffic problems in the Atlanta region, business leaders believe such a tax would pass in the 10-county metro area.

There have been some differences of opinion. The governor has said the referendum should go before voters during the presidential primaries of 2012. Others have said the transportation funding tool is needed earlier and would prefer a vote at this year’s general election.

Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, has said the organization is willing to wait until 2012, which would give the business community ample time to launch a broad campaign in favor of the tax.

Linginfelter also was pleased with the progress being made on water. There’s the governor’s water conservation bill. And business leaders are becoming more optimistic that an agreement between Georgia and Atlanta is getting close.

Another cause for optimism is the improved atmosphere at the Capitol.

Last year, there was all out war between the House and Senate and the governor was on the sidelines.

At the chamber executive committee meeting (which is closed to the press and the public), Cagle spoke about the better relationship that exists between the House and the Senate, largely because of House Speaker David Ralston.

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.

2 replies
  1. Dose of Reality says:

    With the current bill before the legislature, it is very important to determine who has final say in determining which projects get placed on the list to be voted by each of the 12 regions. There is supposed to be some sort of iterative process between planning agencies and the DOT planning director, but who will have final approval?

    If it is the planning agency of the regions themselves, perhaps this is the first legitimate opening of progress the state has seen in a long time. But if DOT will have final say, there really is little reason to be optimistic about increased mass transit in Atlanta’s future, even if the current bill passes.

    Maria – please ask this question, and report on what you find. It is a seemingly minor detail, but will make a world of difference in determining whether this bill is actually a sign of progress, or just more blowing smoke.Report

    Reply

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