Of the 12 designated special regions considering the tax, only three, composed of 46 counties, voted for it. Those regions were the River Valley, Heart of Georgia and the Central Savannah River, located in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Carroll County, part of the Three Rivers region, voted against the tax by a three-to-one margin. Almost 69 percent of Three Rivers voters cast ballots against it.
One of the stipulations of the referendum was that counties in regions that voted down the act would have to provide a 30 percent match for state road repair funds, while those approving would continue the 10 percent match that was already in place.
One state lawmaker has taken steps to reverse that clause, and Carroll County District 5 Commissioner Kevin Jackson is urging the county commission and voters to get behind the new legislation.
Senate Bill 73 was introduced last week by State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, to negate the 30 percent provision of the 2010 Transportation Investment Act that set up the referendum.
“I didn’t support the TSPLOST, and I felt that it was a strong-arm maneuver by the state to get local government to support it and citizens to vote for it,” Jackson said Monday. “It wouldn’t matter how hard they twisted my arm, I couldn’t support a tax increase.”
He said if the state goes through with enforcement of the 30 percent match, it would mean Carroll County would have to pay a $270,000 match for its $900,000 of Department of Transportation road repair funds, instead of $90,000 for a 10 percent match.
“We need to call our state senators and urge them to save us this tremendous amount of dollars,” Jackson said.
“Taxing any one part of Georgia simply because they did not pass a tax increase is un-American,” Albers said. “This is unfortunately the case for 113 counties across the state that voted against the TSPLOST tax.”
Albers said Senate Bill 73 has been assigned to the transportation committee, and he’s already getting a lot of favorable responses from other members of the General Assembly and from constituents.
“I’ve had hundreds of phone calls and thousands of emails in support of the bill,” Albers said Monday afternoon.
The TSPLOST would have funded an $806.1 million list of transportation projects in the 10-county Three Rivers region. Carroll County would have received about $180 million for 35 projects. The 1-cent tax would have been in place for the next 10 years and would have raised the county’s sales tax from 7 to 8 cents per dollar.
Other counties in the Three Rivers region include Butts, Coweta, Heard, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup and Upson.
TSPLOST supporters spent millions of dollars to push the tax, with individuals, such as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and organizations, such as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, backing it. However, the grassroots opposition to it crossed political boundaries from tea parties to the Sierra Club.
Supporters said the additional revenue would help untie the metro Atlanta gridlock, while opponents argued the law that created it was unconstitutional and they were doubtful of the DOT’s ability to follow through on funding. On election day, all north Georgia and metro counties voted against the tax.
In his plan to now strike down the 30 percent penalty, Albers said in a written statement last week, “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.”
Albers, a Roswell business owner and volunteer firefighter, was first elected to the Georgia Senate in 2010 and had not started serving when the 2010 Transportation Investment Act was passed.