Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, left, speaks with Albany Area Chamber of Commerce President Chris Hardy Wednesday afternoon at a fundraiser for ConnectGeorgia, which is pushing the state’s July 31 T-SPLOST initiative.
ALBANY, Ga. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle called an upcoming transportation ballot measure vital to the state's ability to generate jobs while fundraising for the controversial T-SPLOST referendum in Albany Wednesday.
Speaking at a fundraiser Wednesday for Connect Georgia, the public affairs arm of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce advocating the transportation sales tax, the Republican from Gainesville said that if voters were to approve the one-percent sales tax increase on July 31, it would send a strong message to corporations outside of Georgia who depend on transportation infrastructure that Georgians are serious about transportation and want their business.
"Albany has certainly see its share of businesses that, like Cooper Tire and others, who have left, it's (T-SPLOST) important when we talk about logistics" Cagle said. "We just left Miller Coors and they talked about logistics and how important that is in terms of their core business. We believe when we look at Georgia that we've got to make significant investments and send a strong message to the companies across the world that are looking to locate here in Georgia that we're open for business and that we're making the strategic investment that they're looking for in order to make their investment in our communities."
The initiative is a major political experiment for Georgians who, for decades, relied on the state's tax on gasoline to fund the majority of local and regional transportation projects. With officials now saying that the gasoline tax is unable to keep up with the rising cost of transportation projects, legislators have turned to a different kind of consumption-based tax to fund transportation projects.
According to the enabling legislation, the state has been divided into multi-county districts whose residents will vote up or down on the referendum which would levy a new one-percent sales tax on most purchases for the next ten years.
In the Southwest Georgia region, $530 million is estimated to be generated by the tax, 75 percent of which will go to fund a list of regional projects including the widening of State Road 133 from Albany to Valdosta, a Clark Avenue extension over the Flint River and a Westover Boulevard overpass connecting to Ledo Road.
The remaining 25 percent are listed as discretionary transportation funds that will be divided up amongst the cities and counties based on a formula using the number of road miles and population.
Opponents of the measure are skeptical of the government's ability to manage the funds and have questioned how much control over the 25 percent discretionary funding will be in place if the measure passes.
"I think is an ability for a community to come together and allocate those resources specifically to a project," Cagle said. "There's a 10-year sunset, and the voters can rest assured that there's going to be accountability in that the money that's raised is going to spent on the particular project, but more importantly you have that 25 percent that really can be allocated specifically as (a) economic development tool for industry that's going to be located in our community."