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Monday May 25th, 2015 7:50PM

Chamber seeks support for T-SPLOST

By Jerry Gunn Reporter
FLOWERY BRANCH - State transportation officials at Spout Springs Library in Flowery Branch delivered yet another presentation Tuesday morning on the Transportation sales tax, up for a vote in 21 days.

The South Hall Business Coalition, an arm of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, hosted the event. The Chamber supports T-SPLOST. Deputy Transportation Commissioner Todd Long said funding for new projects would not leave the Georgia Mountains Region, would not pay for Atlanta area projects.

"A lot of the bleed over from the press from Atlanta occurs in Hall and Forsyth so people there mistakenly think they're paying the sales tax on Atlanta projects like the Beltline, Marta and transit corridors," Long said. "That's not the case at all; when Hall and Forsyth residents vote, they will be voting for Hall and Forsyth projects only."

Transportation Manager with the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization Srikanth Yamala said at least nine major local road projects would be moved up 15 to 20 years if the T-SPLOST passes July 31st.

"We have three completion dates, 2015, 2019, and 2022, if the referendum passes," Yamala said.

Long said the T-Splost is required by state legislation to sunset in ten years or less. It could not be extended like the toll on Highway 400, which drew an audience question.

"The tolls were at the end of their term," Long said. "There was a perception they would end, but Governor Perdue and the State Road Toll Authority said there were other needs that people were begging us for, so let's extend it seven years to get those other needs done."

Long said with the extension 14 projects in the 400 corridor were funded that would not have been funded. Long added that T-SPLOST legislation is clear on when it will sunset, the 400 tolls was not clear.

"You can't get more clear," he said. "It says it's going to end at ten years or when revenue projections are met if that happens before 10 years. An act to change that would have to be an act of the general legislature and it would be almost impossible to get that changed."

At the end of the meeting Chamber president Kit Dunlap said while she felt like she was 'preaching to the choir', but the T-SPLOST is 'going to be tough'.

"This region is really tough," she said. "We've got to get out there and we've got to vote."

Long predicted a low voter turnout on July 31st, saying a 15 percent turnout is expected.

In a June 30th straw poll conducted by Hall County Republicans the T-SPLOST did not pass muster, with 131 no votes to 58 yes votes, and Georgia's Senate majority leader, Republican Sen. Chip Rogers of Woodstock, is now opposing it, saying most of the money wouldn't help solve traffic congestion. Rogers also says many of the projects will still need funding long after the 10-year tax expires.The transportation sales tax supposedly would fund metro Atlanta's largest infrastructure investment in decades.

Rogers appeared Monday with the Transportation Leadership Coalition, which is working to defeat the tax. Rogers' stance puts him opposite Republicans including Gov. Nathan Deal, who supports the plan.
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