On July 31, Georgia voters will determine the fate of a proposed one-cent sales tax hike that could fund as much as $18 billion, over 10 years, for transportation projects across the state. Of that amount, officials estimate about $8.5 billion in revenue could be generated for the Atlanta area, including more than $600 million for the city's still-emerging BeltLine project.
The vote is actually a series of 12 regional referendums. If passed in any region, the sales tax would go into effect for that area.
A state sales tax for transportation seems unusual these days, especially when any mention of a boost in the federal gas tax is largely deemed unmentionable. But the Georgia measure—often referred to as "T-SPLOST," short for Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax—actually has a history in the state. The most recent SPLOST boosted school construction, for instance.
Some view the vote as a possible bellwether, and as an official sampling of the public's current appetite for increased infrastructure investment. Mark Blanchard, a vice president with engineering firm AECOM, told ENR Southeast recently, "If they are successful, I think you'll see other municipalities and governments looking (at this option)."
Of course, $18 billion is a lot of money. Accordingly, proponents and opponents of that kind of government spending and taxation are battling to win their positions.
Numerous entities, such as the Atlanta Regional Commission, are promoting the benefits. A large Caterpillar equipment distributorship in Georgia, Yancey Bros., has created a website promoting the effort. But numerous other groups, such as the Georgia Tea Party, are denouncing the idea as a massive tax increase that invests too much in transit. And even the Sierra Club has come out against it.
It appears the votes will be close; and ENR will be reporting on this further. For now, here are a few videos showcasing both sides—and one from the Georgia Dept. of Transportation that "does not advocate" a position.
Here's a video posted by the Georgia Municipal Association that is decidedly more promotional:
Finally, here's an opposing view from a gentleman representing a group called the Transportation Leadership Coalition. This video is more lengthy, at more than 10 minutes, and provides a detailed breakdown of arguments against T-SPLOST:
What do you think? Don't hesitate to share your opinions!