Mon., July 30, 2012 5:14pm (EDT)

Transportation Tax Vote Divides Georgians
By Parker Wallace
Updated: 2 years ago

ATLANTA  —  
The T-SPLOST seeks to raise around $18 billion statewide over the next 10 years for transportation improvements.
The T-SPLOST seeks to raise around $18 billion statewide over the next 10 years for transportation improvements.
One of the most talked about items on the primary ballot is the proposed transportation tax referendum. The controversial tax has prompted campaigns both for and against the penny tax and has divided regions in Georgia.

Ada Santamaria and her friend have traveled two hours to find the perfect shoes and the best Mexican food this side of the Georgia border.

“We come from South Carolina, because everything is different they have a lot of stuff they don’t have over there, it’s like Mexico over here, everything’s the same, like the food they have, it’s like our country,” said Santamaria.

But if Atlanta voters pass the transportation tax referendum, Ada will be paying a penny more for every dollar she spends the next trip she makes to Plaza Fiesta, just north of metro Atlanta. Metro Atlanta is one of twelve regions where people are voting on the tax that would pay for regional projects.

Not everyone is convinced that people will be willing to cross state lines for Georgia shopping if sales tax goes up.

In Calhoun County’s Ft. Oglethorpe, 60-70 percent of revenue comes from out of state shoppers. Mayor Linn Long said T-SPLOST would change that.

“People shop by habit and if we get them out of the habit because sales tax is raised from coming into our city and spending their money, then we’re going to have to raise property taxes on the citizens of our city,” said Long.

The T-SPLOST seeks to raise around $18 billion statewide over the next 10 years for transportation improvements. A recent Morris News Service poll shows that voters in the Mountains region near Gainesville are least supportive of the tax where projected revenue is over a billion dollars.

But there’s strong support for the tax referendum in the Central Savannah River Area that centers on Augusta. That’s where Joey Hadden owns a printing company. He thinks the tax might bring in more business—by beautifying the city and improving traffic. One of the projects slated for Augusta would be to renovate the 11th street bridge where Hadden has his shop.

“We need to get things right and we need to do it right the first time. And I’m not for wasting these T-SPLOST dollars, but I am definitely for making our city a better city,” said Hadden.

Concern that tax dollars will be wasted is exactly why Georgia’s Tea Party Patriots launched a fierce anti-TSPLOST campaign. They ramped up their efforts in the final weekend before the election by canvassing neighborhoods across the state, setting up yard signs and talking to residents. Debbie Dooley with the Tea Party says people have lost faith in elected officials to do the right thing with tax revenue.

“The bottom line is we don’t trust our elected officials or the D.O.T. to be responsible with the money they have now, and we’re not giving them another dime until they have proven theirselves (sic) to us,” Dooley said.

The only proof Ada Santamaria needs is the taste of the mango dessert she is taking back to South Carolina with her.

“I got some mango, coco and pineapple with lime, hot sauce and salt,” said Santamaria.

That extra penny on the dollar won’t stop Ada from returning to Plaza Fiesta if TSLOST goes through.

“I would still come, because I like it, just because I like it I would pay the price, I guess,” said Santamaria.

The poll shows only 4 of Georgia’s 12 regions likely to pass the tax referendum.