Move afoot to kill regional transportation tax

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A bill introduced Tuesday would obliterate plans for a 10-county regional transportation sales tax in metro Atlanta.

This is the first concrete sign that the initiative is in peril, jeopardizing a plan to spend $7 billion on regional transportation projects by enacting a one percent sales tax in 10 metro Atlanta counties over a 10-year period.

The project list for the sales tax has been roundly criticized for being transit-heavy, as more than $3 billion is earmarked for rail and bus projects.

House Bill 938, co-sponsored by Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, would ditch the July sales tax referendum in favor of putting a constitutional amendment before voters in November as to whether regional sales taxes for transportation purposes should be authorized.

If the voters approve the constitutional amendment, HB 938 would allow any two or more counties contiguous to each other to create a joint transportation sales tax proposal, which would be subject to a voter referendum in each county.

The project list would be hammered out at meetings between those counties and would require approval from the governing authorities of each county in an intergovernmental agreement. If a county rejects the project list, that county would not be subject to the tax.

Should a county opt out of the proposal, the remaining counties would go back to the drawing board to negotiate a new project list, according to the legislation.

The bill also calls for a public hearing to be conducted on the proposed project list prior to the counties’ final vote to create the local referendum that would authorize the transportation sales tax. Also, the list must be reviewed by the Georgia Department of Transportation to make sure it is consistent with any statewide strategic plan.