Georgia’s Tea Party is continuing its effort to thwart a vote on a transportation sales tax. Last month, it helped to stifle a proposal to move the vote from next July to next November. Now, the political group says it’s against the vote entirely, and its opinion could sway a lot of voters.
The Tea Party says the preliminary project lists focus too much on mass transit, which it says could be a target for terrorists.
The party also questions how legislators set up the governing body for the tax referendum. The law authorizing the vote delegated decision-making to boards in the state’s 12 transportation regions.
These boards include mayors and county commissioners from across the regions. But Mike Williams with the Georgia Tea Party says voters didn’t elect the board members directly.
“What we’re looking at is a general legislature, instead of doing this themselves, they’ve passed the creation of a commission, which is not entirely elected by everyone that it is given authority over, for them to do the job, rather than the general legislature to do it themselves,” he said.
But Chris Cummiskey with the Georgia Department of Economic Development says the work that would be funded by the tax, known as the T-SPLOST, is crucial to economic development.
“We’re going to work every day to make sure people understand that the transportation initiative is all about jobs," he said in an interview. "They are the same thing. People always say, 'Well, the TSPLOST in polls, it’s about the fifth or sixth thing most important thing to a Georgian.' But in that same poll, I guarantee you the No. 1 thing was jobs.”
Chris Clark of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which will be spearheading education campaigns about the vote, says companies around the state want these transportation upgrades. And he says soon Georgia will lose jobs because companies won't relocate here due to the lack of transportation investment.
"We are billions of dollars behind," he said.
The penny sales tax vote takes place next summer. Each region’s voters will cast ballots on whether to fund projects in their area of the state.