Deborah Bowie. senior director of Public Policy and Communications for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, holds up a brochure of information regarding the T-SPLOST referendum.
ALBANY — Representatives of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce told Dougherty County Commissioners Monday that they have taken an advocacy position on the coming T-SPLOST ballot measure and will be educating voters until the July 31 referendum.
If the measure passes, a one-percent sales tax will be added to most purchases made in the 14-county Southwest Georgia area for the next 10 years which would generate $530 million for local and regional transportation projects.
Deborah Bowie, senior director of Public Policy and Communications for the Chamber, told commissioners that polling data suggests that, while some communities in the metro Atlanta area are shaping up to have a bitter battle ahead, Southwest Georgia should be a less contentious fight.
“The issue is shaping up to be a contentious vote in some communities but polling data suggests that we don’t see much of a fight,” Bowie said. “Don’t get me wrong. We’re not taking it for granted, but based on the fact that, in the past, sales tax initiatives have passed overwhelmingly, we think it should pass easily.”
Bowie said that the Chamber is currently raising funds to spend on marketing about a month before the referendum and is looking for people to speak to local civic groups about the T-SPLOST.
“At the end of the day, people will vote their convictions,” Bowie said. “We just ask that the people be informed before they vote.”
If passed, the project will fund the widening of Highway 133 from Albany through much of Southwest Georgia; an extension of Westover Boulevard into Lee County; a bridge and connector over the Flint River at Clark Avenue and a list of other projects.
The transportation sales tax concept came after state transportation were on a downward spiral. Funded through gas tax revenues, funding tanked as skyrocketing gas prices forced consumers to buy newer, more fuel efficient vehicles or turn to alternative sources of transportation all together.
Bowie said misinformation coming from Valdosta could have an impact swaying public opinion against the T-SPLOST.
A small group of Albany residents have formed a Facebook group aimed at submarining the T-SPLOST vote.
Currently the group has 19 members and is one of seven Facebook Groups formed either to support T-SPLOST or kill it.