Transportation sales tax vote won't move to Nov.
Gov. Deal abandons switch after Tea Party cries foul; vote set for July 2012 primary
The referendum on a proposed 10-year, 1 percent regional transportation sales tax will stay right where it is on the calendar: on the July primary.
Gov. Nathan Deal has abandoned an attempt to convince the legislature to move the vote to the general election in November.
In a news release, Deal said he still believes the vote should be moved “to allow as many taxpayers as possible to participate in this important decision.” But he has relented on his request due to the lengthy amount of time it would take to win consensus on the matter.
“It’s best for taxpayers that we not let this special session drag on,” Deal said. “Redistricting was our priority, and we have delivered a great product.”
Deal’s request to move the vote to the November presidential election was harshly criticized by sales tax opponents and in particular Tea Party activists. They claimed the switch was aimed at currying pro-tax votes from Democrats — who aren’t as likely to vote in the primary with incumbent President Barack Obama the certain shoo-in for the Democratic nomination — but should turn out in larger numbers to vote for Obama in the general election in November.
Republicans, however, are expected to have a significant turnout in July because they will be picking Obama's chief opponent for the November election.
Deal said he supports the referendum, which he said is “important to job creation and economic development throughout Georgia.”
For the referendum, Fayette County is included in the 10-county metro Atlanta region. The vote will be culled on a regionwide basis, meaning that the referendum’s fate will be decided based on the aggregate (combined) vote of all 10 counties.
That leaves the possibility that the tax could be voted down in Fayette County, but it will be enacted here and region-wide if the total 10-county vote authorizes it.
Critics of the tax have claimed that Fayette County will end up donating a large amount of money to be spent on transportation projects in Atlanta. But the latest list of projects to be built in Fayette County, added to the funds that the county and its cities will get back from the tax, is within several million of the $190 million estimated amount that Fayette will pay into the tax over the 10 year period.
The latest project list also targets improvements for a key choke point for many west Fayette commuters that’s just across the Fayette-Fulton county line: the Interstate 85/Ga. Highway 74 interchange.
The transportation project list, which will be finalized by October 15, is being prepared by a 21-member regional transportation roundtable, and Fayette County has two representatives on the board: County Commission Chairman Herb Frady and Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele.
The Tea Party opposition to moving the referendum date included a compromise that it could be moved as long as the legislation was created to force all future special purpose local option sales tax votes to be held in general elections.