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Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 1:51pm

New Hurdles For Transportation Tax

Voters in some parts of the state could withdraw support for a 1-cent transportation sales tax as certain high-priority projects disappear from regional short lists.

Officials from 12 special transportation regions have until October to decide which projects the tax would fund in their areas.

Some of those regions lump metro areas like Augusta in with rural areas and county leaders can’t seem to agree on which projects would benefit both.

This week Richmond County cut $300 million in road re-surfacing projects because of pressure from neighboring Wilkes, Lincoln and Talliaferro counties. Officials from those areas said the projects wouldn’t benefit them.

Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver says those projects were the top priority for Augusta’s nearly 100 thousand voters. Getting rid of them, he says, could be a problem for the proposed tax, which would need those votes to pass.

"This is a delicate balance to try to get voter support for. It is something that I certainly believe could become an issue with voters."

Metro Atlanta faces a similar issue with the potential elimination of an I-85 widening project.

Tom Gehl with the Georgia Municipal Association says officials have to make the lists appeal to a wide range of interests.

"The key is to come up with a balance that will meet the political needs of leadership but also meet the test of the ballot in July of 2012. The voters are going to need to know that the tax that’s proposed is going to help them in their everyday lives."

In a recent survey the GMA found that nearly half of city leaders polled said they didn’t think the tax could get enough support to pass.

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