This graphic shows the regions that voted to support the one-percent sales tax increase for transportation projects and those that voted against it.
ATLANTA After a majority of the state voted against hiking sales taxes in their region to fund transportation projects, state officials have begun the process of determining where the state, and its lingering transportation issues, go from here.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has released a statement saying that his office will be pursuing alternatives for transportation funding to deal with the vacuum left by decisions by most Georgians to vote down a controversial penny sales tax initiative Tuesday.
In his statement to the Herald, Deal said that he's considering alternatives but hinted that a tax increase wasn't likely.
“There’s a consensus among Georgians that we need transportation investment, and we must move forward working with existing resources. Given state budget constraints, significant reductions in federal funding and the long time it takes to get projects completed, the rejection of the TSPLOST does significantly reduce our capacity to add infrastructure in a timely fashion. While the outcome of the vote is a disappointment, this is not the end of the discussion; it’s merely a transition point. We won’t be able to do everything we want to do to get people and goods moving quicker, but we’ll do whatever we can to prioritize our most pressing needs," Deal wrote.
Voters in three Georgia regions, the River Valley Region near Columbus, the Heart of Georgia region around Dublin, and the Central Savannah region around Augusta where the only ones statewide to approve the one-percent sales tax initiative for transportation. The remaining 9 regions, including the Southwest Georgia region and the Atlanta region, voted the measure down.
Deal rejected the idea Wednesday of raising the gas tax -- the traditional revenue source for state transportation projects -- and said that he himself would decide which projects around the state would be funded in the areas that didn't approve the TSPLOST.
Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, thanked those regions who did pass the measure and vowed that his group would continue to push for improvements to the state's transportation network.
"Obviously the Georgia Chamber and the business community isn't in this for just one election. We might have lost this vote, but we still haven't addressed the transportation problem," Clark said.
The Georgia Chamber funneled millions of privately-donated dollars into marketing the TSPLOST throughout the regions of Georgia.
Charles Bulloch, a political science professor at the University of Georgia and one of the state's pre-eminent political thinkers said that Tuesday's vote strengthened the state's Tea Party movement, lending them credibility that could resonate throughout the Gold Dome.
"I think it gave the Tea Party a boost and may have strengthened the influence they'll have at the state level," Bulloch said.
Bulloch said he believed the measure largely failed because of a host of reasons, including public distrust of government, poor timing and a miscalculation by government officials that the success of previous sales taxes would equal success in this instance.
"There was a definite miscalculation made about how this would be received," Bulloch said. "People are very suspicious of any taxes right now. I guess what we'll learn from this is that you're willing to vote for a sales tax in your county, but when it becomes a regional thing with other counties, it gets a lot more difficult."