Georgia voters will decide today if a proposed multibillion-dollar transportation special purpose local option sales tax -- better known to the public as TSPLOST -- will become law or be cast aside. Approval means the levy of a 1 percent regional sales tax in each of the state's 12 regional commission districts beginning next July, and the commencement of a massive 10-year effort to improve the state's deteriorating transportation infrastructure. Defeat likely means economic stagnation and increasing disrepair of the state's transit system. We recommend approval of the TSPLOST.
The tax proposal is not a statewide sales tax but one that can be imposed region by region with voter approval. Voters in Northwest Georgia -- including those in the tristate region -- could approve the initiative and their region would start receiving funds next year. Atlantans or Maconians, on the other hand, could reject the proposal and not get additional funds. There's another twist, too.
Regional officials developed a list of proposal that will be funded if the proposal is approved. Only those pre-approved projects, are eligible for TSPLOST funds. That's a plus in Walker, Whitfield, Catoosa, Dade, Chattooga, Gordon and Murray counties. Too often in the past, the Georgia Department of Transportation has imposed its will on local officials in those counties when it came time to determine what transportation improvements would or would not be undertaken. If TSPLOST passes, that certainly would not be the case. There is much at stake for those Northwest Georgia counties.
TSPLOST money would allow the counties to tackle projects that have been delayed time and time again because local funding was insufficient. Many of the projects are vital to safety and economic development. The 15-county Northwest Georgia region, for example, would receive about $1.5 billion in revenue -- if current projections prove correct -- over the life of the TSPLOST. The new special sales-tax generated revenue would be divided 75 percent to the proposed projects and 25 percent to counties and cities in the area for other transportation-related projects. That's a win for all involved, particularly since all funds produced by the TSPLOST will stay in the region in which they were raised..
Moreover, it's a boon for a state that currently ranks 49th in transportation spending and is so low on funds that there's little prospect for needed infrastructure repair and improvement in coming years if TSPLOST in not approved. It should be. The new tax will generate thousands of construction and related jobs, build stronger regional connections and economies, improve road safety and traffic flow and reduce congestion.
TSPLOST deserves voter favor. Northwest Georgia and its residents will benefit directly from its approval and from the regional thinking and planning it has engendered. The latter is essential if the area is to flourish in an economy where traditional boundaries increasingly are more often a bar rather than a spur to economic, social and civic progress.