Voters to Decide T-SPLOST Referendum
Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
On July 31, Georgia voters will decide if investments in the transportation infrastructure within their region of the state justify a new one-cent sales tax. The Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, known as T-SPLOST, would be used to fund a defined list of projects in each of 12 regions and provide discretionary funds to local governments for transportation purposes including maintenance, operations or other capital projects.
"Once people understand that the money raised in south Georgia stays in south Georgia, then they are much more comfortable with the idea," said Jason O'Rouke, political director for Connect Georgia, an T-SPLOST advocacy organization for regions outside of Atlanta that was created by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
"The old way of funding involved political maneuvering at the Capitol and tax revenues might get shifted to fund projects in Atlanta or northern Georgia. For the T-SPLOST, the project list is set. If voters approve this project list for their region, it can’t be changed.”
Projects in Lowndes County
Each of the 12 regions will vote independently on the T-SPLOST referendum. If the referendum passes, then the sales tax will be collected in that region for 10 years and the region's project list will be funded. If the referendum does not pass, then the region must wait two years before putting it to another vote.
"There are limited interconnectivity projects between regions so it will not be an issue if the referendum passes in one region but not in another," O'Rouke said.
In the Southern region, which includes Lowndes County, T-SPLOST is projected to raise more than $670 million in revenues and create more than 18,000 construction and related service-sector jobs.
Smart Investment or Flawed Referendum?
Connect Georgia argues that the state of Georgia has underinvested in its transportation infrastructure for 15 to 20 years. It states, "Despite the fact that Georgia is the third fastest growing state in the nation, it is 49th in per capita spending on transportation."
Opponents of T-SPLOST raise concerns about the constitutionality of several aspects of the law. For example, the state would treat regions differently depending on how they vote on T-SPLOST. Regions that do not pass the referendum will be required to provide a 30 percent match for projects using Local Maintenance & Improvement funds. Regions that approve T-SPLOST will be required to provide a 10 percent match as all regions do now.
O'Rouke believes that most businesses are in favor of T-SPLOST on the basis that it will help the region and state be more competitive in attracting and supporting industry. Relieving congestion on Georgia highways and roads benefits commuters, shippers and freight haulers.
"Manufacturers and distributors need access to reliable transportation routes," he said. "It's critical for economic development."
More information on T-SPLOST from Connect Georgia is available at www.connectgeorgia2012.com.