After months of public arguments among experts, tax opponents and business leaders, the $8 billion transportation question finally goes to the voters.
On July 31, metro Atlantans will decide whether to impose a 1-cent sales tax to raise billions for regional transportation improvements.
About $6.2 billion of the money raised through the tax – usually called the T-SPLOST for “transportation special local option sales tax” – is dedicated to a list of 157 projects intended to address regional transportation problems in the 10-county area where the tax will be collected. Another $1.1 billion will be distributed to local governments to pay for their own projects over the course of the decade.
Sam Westmoreland, director of Fulton County’s department of registration and elections, said officials expect an “average” turnout for the election.
“The elephant in the room is the T-SPLOST question and whether that’s going to drive people to the polls,” he said. “That’s an unknown. There are a lot of people who are in support of it… and there are many people who oppose it.”
Proponents and opponents tax battled until the last days before the election. The tax plan, one of a series of regional sales taxes being considered by Georgia voters on July 31, has drawn support from business groups and the state’s political leadership, and opposition from groups as varied as the Sierra Club and the Dunwoody Tea Party.
• Election Day is Tuesday
July 31. Polls are open from
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To find out if you are registered to vote, where to vote or to see a sample ballot, go to http://mvp.sos.state.ga.us/.
• Remember to bring a photo ID with you when you go to vote.
• If no candidate receives more than half the votes cast in a race, a runoff election will be held Aug. 21 between the two candidates with the most votes.
Proponents say the tax offers the best chance metro Atlantans may have to attack transportation problems. Opponents say the tax dedicates either too much or too little money to transit, spends money on unneeded projects and simply is a new tax.
Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, defended the tax before a skeptical gathering of members of the Buckhead Business Association on July 12.
Durrett said his goal wasn’t to reach those who had already made up their minds. “I’m working on people who are undecided,” he said.
Durrett said the two projects most important to Buckhead are improving Piedmont Road from the Lindbergh area to Roswell Road, which will include traffic upgrades and bus rapid transit, and improving the intersection of Collier and Peachtree roads. The project list includes $20.4 million for safety improvements to State Route 9, which includes Roswell and Peachtree roads, and nearly $700 million for improvements to Ga. 400 and I-285, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission.
The sales tax isn’t the only vote of interest on the July 31 ballot.
In Buckhead and Sandy Springs, three Republicans are competing in their party’s primary for the chance to take on State Sen. Doug Stoner in November.
Josh Belinfante of Sandy Springs, Drew Ellenburg of Buckhead and Hunter Hill of Cobb County are contending for the Republican nomination in the race to represent Senate District 6. Stoner is a Democrat. His district was redrawn to include areas in Fulton County likely to vote Republican.
Also, five candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination for Fulton County Sheriff. Frank L. Brown, Curtis S. Farmer, incumbent Sheriff Ted Jackson, former Sheriff Richard Lankford and Charles Shelton are squaring off for the position.