Organizations choose sides in T-SPLOST vote
by Matt Shinall
May 22, 2012 | 1696 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On July 31, voters will have a chance to voice their opinions on a proposed 1 cent transportation tax -- the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

Although voting is more than two months away, local groups are taking sides on the issue voicing their support or disapproval of the proposed tax increase.

Last week, Bruce Thompson, chairman of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, announced the chamber's decision to support the upcoming T-SPLOST vote.

"The board of directors voted unanimously to support the SPLOST," Thompson said. "There's a lot of needs within the community that affect the commerce within the community, many of those being the road projects. So we see that this is probably the main opportunity for us to be able to complete those projects to continue the environment of fostering business growth within our community. Vote against it and we don't have the resources to continue to finish some of these projects you see listed."

On the other side, the Bartow County Tea Party and Bartow County GOP are coordinating an event next month to share their views on the upcoming vote. In a June 9 combined meeting, open to the public, the two groups will host speakers further explaining their objection to the T-SPLOST as proposed.

Director of the Bartow County Tea Party, Gail Engelhardt, made clear neither she nor her organization is against transportation but finds the proposed measure ill planned and ineffective in combating issues of congestion.

"It's the largest single tax increase in Georgia history -- $8.5 billion, if voted in, and many of the projects aren't even fully funded," Engelhardt said, referring to projects only partially funded by the 10-year T-SPLOST. "It's better to have one project fully funded than have half-a-dozen incomplete projects."

Engelhardt also finds difficulty in voting for the T-SPLOST due to public funds already being used for transportation efforts from which many Bartow County residents don't directly benefit. She would like to see issues resolved with Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority before new taxes are added.

"We already pay a gas tax, a percentage of that goes to MARTA and we're not even served by MARTA."

Engelhardt said. "Maybe if we kept what we pay in gas tax, we could afford to pay a tax to finish projects like the 411 connector but this new tax would be like throwing good money after bad."

Local groups in opposition to the T-SPLOST are not alone as state organizations voice out against the measure, including the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance, who are set to demonstrate today in Gwinnett County.

Thompson, although in favor of the T-SPLOST, recognized his own concern and the concerns of others about an additional tax being enacted during difficult economic times but urged that local transportation projects being funded by the 1 cent tax could be vital to continued growth.

"In any community, when you add an additional tax I don't believe very many people, particularly in Bartow County and even myself, are in favor of another tax. However, there are times that we have to make tough decisions to be able to accomplish some of the things that we need to get done," Thompson said. "And again, in the state that we're in, we need to get people to work -- and I don't know if we can rely on the state and federal government to get those done for us."

Project lists are divided into regions with funding coming from sales tax dollars within that region. The northwest Georgia transportation district includes Bartow, Cattoosa, Chatooga, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Harralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Walker and Whitfield counties.

Supporters applaud the method used to compile the project lists in which county commissioners worked to form a preliminary list which was then critiqued by a larger board of local representatives, including mayors of county seats. Members of the northwest region constructed a formula using population and sales tax revenue to disperse the estimated funds through which they decided which projects to approve.

Eleven Bartow County projects made the list: the Cass-White Road at Interstate 75 interchange reconstruction; Douthit Ferry Road from Old Alabama Road to West Avenue; Emerson Old Alabama Road widening and improvement from SR 100 to SR 293; northwest coordinated rural/human services transit project; partial relocation of SR 20 from I-75 to SR 61/U.S. 411; Richards Road CSX railway crossing safety improvements; SR 140 from Oothkalooga Creek to SR 3/U.S. 411; SR 140 improvements from SR 53 to Oothkalooga Creek; Stamp Creek Road at U.S. 411 intersection improvements; U.S. 411 Connector; and improvements on SR 3/U.S. 41 from SR 113/Main Street to SR 61.

The Bartow County Tea Party and Bartow County GOP will meet to discuss the issue on Saturday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to noon at Bartow County GOP headquarters, 162 Main St. in Cartersville. Space is limited and reservations are requested by email at bartowcountyteaparty@gmail.com or calling 404-993-9545. For more information, visit www.bartowcountyteaparty.com.

For more information on the proposed T-SPLOST and full project lists statewide, visit www.tiny.cc/tsplost.