Jim Durrett, executive director of the , addressed concerns and offered explanations about the upcoming T-SPLOST vote at the quarterly meeting Thursday evening.
T-SPLOST, ($7.2 billion in present dollars) over the next 10 years, is a highly debated tax that will be decided by voters in 10 metro counties and the city of Atlanta.
The sales and use tax excludes fuels of all kinds and any amount over $5,000 spent on an automotive vehicle, would be in place from January 2013 until December 2022 or until the funding level is met, whichever comes first. The law can not be extended beyond 10 years unless approved by voters.
'It's written into the law that this tax will end. The only way it will continue is if the legislature comes back to you and says do you want to do this again?" Durrett told the crowd. "No politician can change their mind about anything there."
Durrett discussed the tax in detail, explaining that $6.1 billion of the tax can only be used on a specific project list that was approved by a Regional Roundtable composed of 21 representatives from the 10 counties and various cities in late 2011.
The remaining 15% of the taxes will be allocated to each county or city and can be spent on existing airports, bike lanes, bridges, bus and rail mass transit systems.
The projects have been divided into three groups, staggering them based on 'shovel readiness' and how construction on one will affect construction on another.
Durrett stressed the average tax burden over the course of the 10-year tax would be $111 per person per year, with businesses making up 35% of the tax, residents covering 58% and visitors accounting for 7%.
While voters will be at the polls in their local jurisdictions the decision will be made by the majority results from the entire region, making this an all or nothing law for the region.
When pressed about what would happen should T-SPLOST not pass on July 31, Durrett was reluctant to give his opinion, but did explain that currently when DeKalb County gets a grant from GDOT for a transportation project DeKalb has to match it 20%. If T-SPLOST is passed that matching rate will be reduced to 10%, but if it isn't passed every local government will have to make a 30% match.
"It means we will be building even less tomorrow than we are building today," Durrett explained. "What we are learning in this country right now is the traditional way of funding transportation projects is broken, and we need to come up with other ways of funding these projects."
If T-SPLOST does not meet a majority vote then by law the legislature can't come back to voters for a two-year period with another proposal.
"We need to be putting in place transportation options for the workplace of today and tomorrow. We have stagnated much more so than other metropolitan areas," said Durrett.
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