Regional transportation tax gets push from Chamber, Rep. Ramsey

In 2012, voters in Fayette County will be asked whether they support a regional 10-county 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects in metro Atlanta. But even if the measure fails here in Fayette, the sales tax will still be assessed here if it is approved region-wide.

Fayette County is part of the Atlanta Regional Commission, and the remaining nine ARC counties will also vote on the bill: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale.

A bill authorizing the sales tax referendum was passed by the legislature last week.

Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, said he felt comfortable that the process of developing transportation projects left Fayette County with an appropriate voice at the table.

“Fayette County will have the same votes on the roundtable as counties 10 times its size,” Ramsey said. “We were really pleased with that.”

Ramsey said in the past three years he has voted against similar legislation because Fayette and other smaller counties wouldn’t have enough say-so on the project list.

The legislation forbids any of the sales tax money from being spent on the MARTA regional transit system.

Some projections are that the 1 percent regional sales tax would raise $750 million for transportation projects. The list of projects would be developed by a “transportation roundtable” consisting of each county’s commission chairman and also one mayor from each county.

The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce supports the bill because nearly two-thirds of Fayette residents have to commute into Atlanta for work.

“That means that jobs are at stake and are tied to our ability to plan for and fund transportation solutions in the region, not only within our own community,” said Chamber President Virginia Gibbs in a letter to the editor (on A10).

Gibbs noted that 15 percent of the funds will be dedicated to local projects in each county.

Moreover, the new regional transportation improvements will also help the quality of life in Fayette County, she added.

“For everyone, this ultimately gives us hope that we can spend more time with our families and less time in traffic,” Gibbs said.