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Monday, May 14, 2012 - 6:20pm

Tax Supporters Start Fundraising

Backers of regional penny sales taxes for transportation held their first big fundraising push outside Metro Atlanta Monday.

Governor Nathan Deal spoke at a $500 a head reception in Savannah aimed at buying TV and radio spots.

Organizers said five coastal-area companies wrote five-figure checks and one wrote a six-figure check.

The Governor thanked the 50 or so people who attended the reception.

He said the proposed tax, called T-SPLOST, is the only option for funding transportation improvements.

"This is the kind of teamwork that it takes to be able to get an initiative of this type passed," Deal said.

Opponents won't be able to match the million-dollar-plus campaign supporters are planning.

But the Tea Party's Jeannie Seaver says, they will hold rallies since they believe Savannah is overtaxed.

"We just renewed E-SPLOST," Seaver says. "SPLOST is coming up. I am so tired of it."

Voters will decide the taxes in 12 regions in July.

The Metro Atlanta and statewide campaigns are being run separately.

The Georgia Transportation Alliance's Heath Garrett says, his group is planning separate campaigns to support the taxes in the 11 regions outside Metro Atlanta.

"The size of the regions are like a Congressional race," Garrett says. "There are probably several hundred thousand people who live in the coastal region who will vote on this on the same day. And so to communicate with them it costs a fair amount of money. I think we're going to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in each region."

Another group, the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network, is running the more expensive campaign in Atlanta.

But both efforts draw major support from business and local chambers of commerce.