ATLANTA — A state senator from Roswell has introduce legislation in Atlanta that, if passed, would remove the penalty portion of the controversial TSPLOST bill for areas that didn't pass the one percent transportation sales tax measure.
Senate Bill 73 was introduced Tuesday by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, and targets a provision in the original special-purpose local-option sales tax for transportation enabling legislation that would effectively remove the TSPLOST “penalty provision” that requires local governments whose regions rejected the sales tax to pay more for transportation grants.
“Taxing any one part of Georgia simply because they did not pass a tax increase is un-American," Albers said in news release from the Senate. “This is unfortunately the case for 113 counties across the state that voted against the TSPLOST tax.”
According to the news release, the General Assembly passed the Transportation Investment Act, or TIA, in 2010, authorizing the establishment of 12 special transportation districts to oversee the development, implementation and oversight of various transportation-related projects throughout the state. In addition, the TIA provided the mechanism that authorized counties in each region to conduct a transportation referendum.
Out of the 12 designated regions, three passed the TSPLOST in the July 31, 2012 referendum. These regions comprise 46 counties in the River Valley, Heart of Georgia, and the Central Savannah River regions.
The district that covers Albany and most of Southwest Georgia voted down the measure. Crisp and Dooly County, however, are covered in the Heart of Georgia district and are paying the additional 1 percent sales tax.
Under current law, if voters in a region failed to pass the referendum, every local government in that region must provide a 30 percent match to receive any Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants, which have typically been used to help resurface roads, pave dirt roads and maintain bridges.
For the regions that passed the TSPLOST, local governments are only required to provide a 10 percent match rate to receive these same grants.
Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff "Bodine" Sinyard said that he appreciates the concept, but said that he believes maintaining the integrity of the original legislation is equally important.
"We have to make sure that the three regions that did pass it are getting everything they were promised when they voted for it," Sinyard said. "That being said, any relief we can get at the local level would be encouraging."
Albers said, "During these challenging economic times, it is critical that regions across Georgia are given a level playing field when it comes to transportation funding. Penalizing taxpayers for saying 'no' to a tax increase sets an erroneous precedent for the future, especially as regions across Georgia — particularly metro Atlanta and the surrounding areas — need long-term transportation investments and improvements. I remain committed to finding solutions to our traffic and transportation needs in Georgia."
SB 73 is currently waiting to be assigned to a committee.