Georgia voters to decide on July 31 whether to approve as much as US$18.7B in new money statewide for roads, bridges and transit

GRAIN VALLEY, Missouri , July 21, 2012 () – Georgia voters head to the voting booth in 11 days to decide if they want to tax themselves to pay for transportation improvements. The vote could result in as much as $18.7 billion in new money statewide for roads, bridges and transit, plus additional federal money.

The July 31 referendum is the result of years of work at the statehouse to come up with a funding mechanism to pay for transportation work. In 2010, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law a bill that lets residents have the final say on a penny increase in the state sales tax to fund projects in their area.

For this month’s primary election the state has been broken into 12 multi-county regions with separate votes to authorize a list of local projects. If approved, counties could not opt out of a region’s tax.

Regions rejecting the increase would not get any additional funding. Instead, they would be responsible for coming up with their own funding mechanism to get needed work done.

Atlanta-area voters are being asked to approve a plan to raise $8.5 billion over 10 years for 157 projects in 10 counties surrounding the city.

Voters in the Savannah area will decide on a $1.6 billion package while voters in Northwest and Northeast Georgia will cast ballots on a $1.5 billion package and a $1.3 billion package, respectively.

Supporters say the tax increase is needed to keep and attract businesses to the state. They also point out that Georgia spends less per capita on transportation than all but one state (Tennessee).

Opposition is critical of how much money would be devoted to transit, while others criticize the amount of money that would be routed to roads. Another criticism is that too few of the projects would help low income residents. More concerns are focused on whether a tax should be added while the economy continues to struggle.

Economic concerns were the main reason lawmakers delayed the tax vote two years ago for the presidential primary ballot.

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