published Friday, September 30th, 2011

Road project tax heads to voters


Among the 15 counties in Northwest Georgia, here is a sampling of local projects:

Catoosa County

Mineral Avenue widening and enhancements, $10.2 million

South Cedar Lane widening and enhancements, $5.4 million

Chattooga County

Replace Chattooga River bridge on Taliaferro Springs Road, $1.6 million

Sidewalk improvements on U.S. Highway 27, $1.2 million

Dade County

New northbound interchange on Interstate 59, $28 million

Gordon County

South Calhoun bypass, $18.6 million

Murray County

Bridge Rock Creek bridge on Dennis Mill Road, $1.9 million

Bike lanes, $1.5 million

Walker County

Euclid Road bridge, $2.8 million

Glass Mill Road bridge, $2.3 million

Crow Gap Road bridge, $1.9 million

Whitfield County

Airport Road improvements, $6.3 million

East Morris Street improvements, $7.5 million

Veterans Drive extension, $10.6 million

Source: Georgia Department of Transportation

CALHOUN, Ga. -- More than $1.1 billion in transportation projects for Northwest Georgia heads to voters for their approval after a unanimous vote Thursday by members of a 15-county Northwest Georgia roundtable.

Voters will decide in July whether to approve a 1 percent special local option sales tax for 10 years to pay for projects that include an interstate interchange, road widening, sidewalk improvements and airport hangars. The money will be split, with 75 percent devoted to projects and 25 percent that can be used for discretionary spending.

"This is led by local elected officials and is the perfect way to do these kinds of revenue enhancements," said state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who attended Thursday's meeting of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission roundtable at the Calhoun Convention Center. Mullis is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

State legislators passed a law this spring that divides Georgia into transportation regions. If voters approve the tax, the money will be divided among counties using a formula to calculate population and expected revenue, although some counties will raise more in tax dollars than they will receive in project spending.

If residents in a region don't vote on the tax in July or don't pass it, the region will receive less matching money from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Tea party and other groups across Georgia oppose the tax and have vowed to defeat it.

But area elected officials, including Mullis, have said that having local lawmakers compile the projects list provides local input and oversight.

"I plan to promote it because I believe in it," Mullis said. "All those extremists that don't like it can come and get me."

State lawmakers had considered moving the vote from July to November, when more people will be voting in general elections, but could not get support for the change during an August special session of the Legislature.

Mullis said he does not know of any plans to bring up the issue during the regular session next spring. He said he supports moving the date, but he's not sure enough other lawmakers want to make the change.

Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb and Dade County Executive Ted Rumley also voiced support for the projects list.

"I hate the word 'tax,' but I think it's as fair a tax as it can be," Rumley said.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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