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State Chamber exec touts benefits of T-SPLOST

Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, told The Albany Herald Editorial Board that passing the referendum for the proposed T-SPLOST is necessary for the economic expansion of Albany’s 14-county region.

Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, told The Albany Herald Editorial Board that passing the referendum for the proposed T-SPLOST is necessary for the economic expansion of Albany’s 14-county region.

ALBANY, Ga. — Regions that fail support a proposed 1 percent sales tax addition to fund transportation projects may find their communities in park economically while other regions accelerate with improved transportation infrastructure.

While it’s unusual for a business-oriented organization like the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to promote the idea of a tax increase, it makes sense in the case of the regional transportation planning, Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia chamber, said Tuesday in a meeting with The Albany Herald Editorial Board.

“Historically, we’ve been anti-tax,” Clark noted, “and I think we’ve done a pretty good job at that, but it really does fall on the business community to step forward and show some leadership around the state.”

Each of the state’s 12 transportation regions will vote on referendums for their regions on whether to approve a T-SPLOST, or Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Tax. Each region will vote independently to accept or reject the new tax within its area, with all the revenue generated over the 10-year life of the tax earmarked to be spent on transportation projects only within that region.

“University of Georgia economists are talking about another eight years before getting back to pre-recession job levels,” Deborah Bowie, senior director of public policy for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, said at the Editorial Board meeting, “so (the Albany chamber) looks at this as an opportunity to make infrastructure improvements now. Fast forward eight years and other regions have invested and we haven’t. You can’t win the game if you’re not in it.”

Region 10 includes Dougherty, Lee, Terrell, Worth, Baker, Calhoun, Early, Mitchell, Miller, Colquitt, Seminole, Decatur, Grady and Thomas counties. The Georgia Transportation Alliance says the T-SPLOST for the region would generate more than $530 million and create 14,320 jobs in the region. If all 12 regions pass their respective taxes, $19 billion would be raised over the 10 years.

Clark is on a campaign run throughout the state to garner support for the new tax, speaking to newspaper editorial boards, civic clubs and local chambers of commerce. In addition, The Georgia Chamber and its affiliate, the Georgia Transportation Alliance, plan to push their message of enhanced economic development on websites, in print ads and on radio. Clark said he is optimistic about the progress being made.

“Where we are now, we have an overwhelming majority of chambers that are either supportive or taking education on the campaign,” Clark said. “Only a few haven’t taken a position.”

As far as the editorial boards around the state, Clark said he was generally “pleasantly surprised” when asking for support.

“We’ve had some lively debates and discussions, but typically there’s an enlightenment there that gets it and supports the program,” he said.

According to Clark, while Georgia ranks among the top 10 states in road miles traveled, but it ranks just 49th in money spent for roads and bridges. He said money generated in the region with the T-SPLOST would stay in the region.

“The money doesn’t go to Atlanta,” Clark said. “I’m from Fitzgerald, by the way, so I grew up down here and understand that completely. I don’t want Atlanta taking that money either.”

Bowie said because of future rounds of BRAC (Defense Base & Realignment Commission), she considers the widening to four lanes of Georgia Highway 133 from Albany to Valdosta to be the most important of the T-SPLOST projects set for Southwest Georgia. The construction would improve connectivity between Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany and Interstate Highway 75.

While no fan of new taxes, Clark said the T-SPLOST is the best method available for funding transportation infrastructure needs. To increase the excise tax on gasoline enough to generate the same amount of money as projected under the T-SPLOST would raise pump prices by 29 cents per gallon, he said. Transportation infrastructure is now funded by an excise tax on fuel that has not kept pace with infrastructure demands.

“I’ve asked members of the opposition to tell me what the solution is,” Clark said, “to tell me another way to alleviate congestion and deal with these projects. I’ve yet to get (another) solution and an answer to this. Inevitably, when I go to a Rotary club, when the meeting is over, people come up to me and say, ‘I get it now. I may not like it but I get it now, and I’ll vote for it.’”

The tax passes or fails in a region by a simple majority regional vote. Regions that do not pass the tax on July 31 will have to wait at least two years to try the referendum again. Meanwhile, their local match for local maintenance and improvements grants from the state will increase to 30 percent. Regions that pass the T-SPLOST will only have to match 10 percent for those grants.

Comments

Trustbuster 1 year, 10 months ago

Georgia ranks 23rd in sales tax competitiveness. The T-SPLOST would increase our taxes when another tax is not necessary. The Chamber official has failed to mention that the DOT has misused already $2 billion in highway funds. Our state highway dept. always receives its lion share of tax dollars from the gasoline tax. Also there is a federal highway tax levied too. Why give more money to an agency that has already misappropriated funds. Besides the district plan for the collection of this special local option sales tax may be unconstitutional because the method supersedes county and local municipalities. T-SPLOST is not the solution to the problem of highway funding. Control govt. spending and funds would be better appropriated. I suggest that everyone check out the website called www.traffictruth.net concerning this vote in July.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 10 months ago

Keep this up, Truthbuster! No to T-SPLOST!!!!

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DoctorDorite 1 year, 10 months ago

Taxes never go away whether mandated or a self-imposed splost, it just gives the officials more money to play with, they can't control the money already going to them in a thrifty way and now they want us to penalized ourselves by voting for a tax increase to make themselves look good, real smart on their part. I say squeeze what your already getting, it works for my household !

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JR 1 year, 10 months ago

Makes great sense and our region needs this for sorely needed economic development.. We don't need other regions in our state having another competitive advantage over us. I support the Albany Chamber and Ga Chamber in their endorsement.

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ProBusiness 1 year, 10 months ago

One reason to support this T-splost is so that we can compete with larger cities when it comes to new industry. While I am happy when new industry comes to the state of Georgia, it concerns me when we are overlooked by larger companies that could make a huge impact on our local economy. This T-Splost is a way that we can improve our infrastucture and entice companies looking to move in or convince our current companies to continue investing in our region. Face it, until we as citizens of this region put aside our petty differences, quit thinking of only ourselves and come together in unity with one another in an effort to bring Albany and the surrounding cities out of the dismal economic environment, we are doomed. It's up to us to take charge and show our leaders that we are going to hold them accountable for the way that they conduct business, their personal lives, and the impact of their decisions. That being said, I agree with Truthbuster that there needs to be more accountability, but don't let this cause you not to vote for an improved local economy.

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Trustbuster 1 year, 10 months ago

Lets take a little history lesson here. Industries came to Georgia and other Southern states because of cheap labor, low taxes, and right-to-work laws. Taxes have been kept low to attract industries and bring in migrants that contribute to an ever expanding tax base. Also most economists consider sales taxes regressive that severely impact the poor and those on fixed incomes such as retirees. It has been always been lower taxes that produce more revenue from the sales exchanges. Another additional sales tax during a recession will only generate very little revenue. If you are probusiness then subscribe to classical economics like I do. The Keynesian approach of taxing and spending generates very little jobs in the private sector and only expands governmental power. I suggest that you read Jim Powell's book FDR's Folly and Thomas Woods' book The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Both writers argue the case that taxing and spending policies only made the Depression last longer. I rest my case. History is on my side not government bureaucrats and politicians.

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whattheheck 1 year, 10 months ago

Good grief! Lack of accountability is a prime reason not to vote for it. But our problems run deeper than the Flint at flood stage. If you wanted to relocate a large business, and you looked at the status of education in the DCSS, the poverty rate, the growing welfare support system, high crime rate, medical costs, property tax rates, dysfunctional government(s), and 30 years of decreasing population, just for starters, would you consider moving to Albany? Do you really think T-SPLOST will overcome any of these problems? We can't seem to get any of the above problems under discussion much less resolution--reality comes hard here. . When "poverty" is the largest and fastest growing industry in an area, and we tout being an "entitlement city", companies don't give a serious look--ask Detriot, but make it quick before they disappear. And us taking charge and showing our leaders anything locally or at state level has not and will not happen!

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm against any more taxation. However, just like Senate, House, and Presidential politics..........TSPLOST will always pass in Dougherty County because there are too many people voting YES who pay no tax. No skin off their nose and no money out of their pockets. Voting YES so that the PAYERS will have to PAY MORE and the NON-PAYERS will be able to GET MORE.

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whattheheck 1 year, 10 months ago

A July rather than a Nov vote is to our advantage. Although this one will also affect the traditional non-payers, most won't even know it.

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