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Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Tax Backers Will Pitch Jobs

A landmark penny-sales-tax vote for transportation projects in Georgia is six months away and the campaign to pass the tax is starting to take shape.

The pitch to convince voters focuses on boosting the economy. Doug Callaway, three months into his job as executive director of the Georgia Transportation Alliance, is already traveling the state talking to Georgians about what he thinks are the merits of the penny tax: more jobs, safer roads, and local control.

The alliance is an arm of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. It plans to raise $5 million to provide materials and staff to support local chambers and governments as they "sell" the tax.

Callaway said there likely will be billboards, commercials and print ads. But mostly, it’s a grass-roots effort.

“What’s really going to persuade my fellow Georgians is gonna be hearing about this from somebody they go to church with or somebody they play golf with or go hunting with, someone that you trust,” Callaway said.

Voters in 12 regions decide July 31st if they want to pay another penny sales tax to fund transportation projects in their area.

The campaign to sell the tax is called “Connect Georgia." It will help local officials and chambers of commerce make the pitch to voters at the city and county level.

In Middle Georgia, officials are planning to focus first on several special purpose local option sales taxes up for renewal in March.

“That’s great. That’s appropriate,” Callaway sad. “I’m firmly convinced that the voters in Georgia are a lot smarter than some folks give them credit and they can understand the difference and they can appreciate the benefits of both and let them stand on the merits.”

Polls show voters are skeptical of the 1 percent sales tax. Critics, who don’t like the idea of a new tax, argue some counties will benefit more than others.