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Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - 11:46am

Is TSPLOST A Game Changer?

Only three of Georgia’s 10 regional districts approved a penny sales tax increase for transportation projects.

If you live in the regions anchored by Columbus, Augusta or Vidalia, you'll soon start paying the tax called TSPLOST.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce says collectively, the regions are projected to raise over $1.8 billion to fund much needed local transportation projects that will create jobs and fuel economic recovery.

Columbus’ Mayor is predicting this will lead to an economic realignment in the state.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson says the influx of TSPLOST money flowing into the three regions which approved the tax could change the economic growth patterns of the state.

“There’s a real opportunity to realign the economic development potential as Atlanta struggles, Savannah struggles and Augusta and Columbus are very well poised to move forward.”

Andy Crossen with the Central Savannah River regional commission says, “In many of those rural areas, they will actually see more coming back to them than they actually put into the TSPLOST. But they’ll all certainly see a lot more money to do transportation projects locally than they’ve seen in past years.”

Brent Manning with the Heart of Georgia regional commission says voters there approved TSPLOST 52 percent to 48 percent.

"We're actually doing a lot more local projects than any other region. And when people saw that their street possibly could get resurfaced, I think that changed a lot of minds as far as voting yes."

Tomlinson says she is concerned that state officials may cut traditional state transportation funding to these three regions now that they will get extra money from TSPLOST.

Officials north and east of Atlanta believe TSPLOST may have failed there because voters thought all the money was going to projects in Atlanta. A lot of the commercials aimed at Atlanta voters ran on television and radio seen and heard outside the metro Atlanta market.

Robert Hiett with the Three Rivers regional commission says the need remains, but without TSPLOST money it may be years before big road projects get built.

“A lot of the high impact projects around the state probably won’t be done in a 10 to 20 year time frame, with the resources we have today.”

Some voters in southern Georgia saw TSPLOST as a new tax and didn’t see the benefit.

Corey Hull with the Southern Georgia regional commission says the transportation needs aren’t going away, so this may not be the last time TSPLOST will hit the ballot.

“The law provides the region to look at another vote on TSPLOST in two years. So we’ll have to see how this region will want to look at that to see if they want to put that back on the ballot.”

Adam Hazell with the Georgia Mountains regional commission says they are still trying to figure out why 75 percent of their voters rejected TSPLOST.

“We know they said no to this. Now we would like to know, what do they want?”