The Union Recorder

Election 2012

June 23, 2012

T-SPLOST 101

The Transportation Investment Act of 2010 sought a solution for Georgia's transportation and highway system infrastructure issues by authorizing the T-SPLOST referendum. On July 31, residents in 12 established state regions vote on the 1-cent regional sales tax projected to raise $19 billion statewide.

Background on the T-SPLOST

The Transportation Investment Act of 2010 sought a solution for Georgia's transportation and highway system infrastructure issues by authorizing the T-SPLOST referendum. On July 31, residents in 12 established state regions vote on the 1-cent regional sales tax projected to raise $19 billion statewide.
Restricted to 10 years, the T-SPLOST allocates tax funds for specific regional and county use. Middle Georgia's Region 6, which includes Baldwin County, is comprised of 11 counties and has an approved project list, which was determined by a Regional Transportation Roundtable in October.
The Middle Georgia Region includes Monroe, Crawford, Peach, Bibb, Houston, Pulaski, Twiggs, Wilkinson, Baldwin, Jones and Putnam counties. The list of projects for Bibb and Houston counties are the most expansive, followed by Baldwin, Jones and Putnam counties.
Local government officials submitted various projects for transportation investment based on a theory of connectivity. In all, 283 total projects were submitted, 159 met the criteria and 76 Middle Georgia projects made the final state list.
If approved by voters, the T-SPLOST tax funds stay in the region and should total $876 million in Middle Georgia, according to estimates. The tax could potentially fail at the local county level and still pass region-wide, meaning the region will vote as a region and be taxed, or not, as a region. By law, the tax will cease to exist after 10 years or when the predicted revues are raised, whichever comes first. Continuing the tax beyond 10 years would be illegal, and an extension of the tax would have to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly.
All T-SPLOST regional funds would be distributed based on a 75/25 percent breakdown — 75 percent going to the approved final region projects, which is five in Baldwin County. These projects include:
• Baldwin County Airport improvements;
• Blandy Road resurfacing and the addition of a turn lane;
• State Route 540/Fall Line Freeway work from U.S. 441 in Wilkinson County to state Route 24 in Baldwin County;
• New vans for Transit Capital and
• U.S. 441 North Bypass construction.
The other 25 percent of the funds is marked as discretionary funds for city and county use. The money could be used for more local transportation updates and road improvements. The money will be distributed based on a formula of population and road mileage.
Milledgeville Mayor Richard Bentley was a member of the executive chair roundtable committee that developed the approved list of projects. He said narrowing down the projects proved difficult. Bentley thinks the inclusion of the Fall Line Freeway construction was huge and he is pleased overall with the economic potential of the T-SPLOST.
“It will certainly change the economic outlook for the southern part of the county. That will enhance the opportunities in Milledgeville,” Bentley said. “I think this will be a way for us to come out of the recession faster. I haven't heard much negative feedback.”
The mayor said the Fall Line Freeway and the 25 percent discretionary monies should give a positive for voting YES. Projected to generate $1.2 million per year for 10 years, the extra locally allocated money has the potential to go a long way toward upgrading local roadways, according to Bentley.
Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce CEO April Bragg said Baldwin County is receiving a generous share of the regional projects, and the tax vote is a once in a lifetime shot to get a handle on local transportation.
“I think the projects that met the criteria had a great approach to connectivity for our county. The 25 percent left for local discretion could potentially help for getting trucks out of downtown. All of that requires funding. This gives us a viable option,” Bragg said.
Connect Georgia, funded through the Altanta-based organization Georgia Transportation Alliance, recently sent a representative to speak to members of the Milledgeville Rotary Club on the tax referendum. Zach Johnson told Rotary members there is local competition between regions and that residents could expect jobs to go elsewhere if the middle Georgia region does not begin to invest more in transportation.
Overall, Georgia sits 49th nationally in per capita spending on transportation despite being the third fastest growing state. Johnson highlighted the T-SPLOST as a job creator and local control machine.
“This is a pay as you go system. If you believe in it, this is our plan,” Johnson said. “This is the most responsible way to move our state forward.”
A Citizen Review Panel in each region will ensure the projects are completed on time and within budget. The oversight panels, appointed by the lieutenent governor and the speaker of the House, have to release progress reports at least three times per year.
Interim County Manager Ralph McMullen, who joined Mayor Bentley on the roundtable committee, worked with county, city and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) on establishing the most important T-SPLOST projects.
“Some individuals expressed interest in town hall meetings. The panel would help keep the GDOT to the task,” McMullen said. “In other words, looking over GDOT's shoulder and making sure they stay on budget and do what they said they were going to do.”
From dirt round maintenance to improvements on Blandy Road, McMullen said passing the referendum would be a tremendous benefit for Baldwin County.
“It's not perfect. It's the system that came out of two years of debate and dialogue. We are going to try our best to work with it,” Bentley said.
Bragg said additional community education forums should generate voter participation at the polls.
“When we are going after businesses and looking for ways to develop our communities, we aren't just going against other states. We are usually going against other counties in our region also,” Bragg said. “This could potentially give us a leg up.

WHAT T-SPLOST PROJECTS ARE INCLUDED FOR BALDWIN COUNTY?

The Middle Georgia Regional Commission's membership consists of 11 counties and 22 cities in Middle Georgia. The counties include Monroe, Crawford, Peach, Bibb, Houston, Pulaski, Twiggs, Wilkinson, Baldwin, Jones and Putnam. The area consists of both urban and rural counties with Bibb County/Macon and Houston County/Warner Robins being predominately urban. The regional value on the total list of projects is approximately $554 million. Several improvements to the I-75/I-16 interchange are among projects, as well as widening Ga. 96 near the Houston-Twiggs counties border.

Baldwin County Proposed Projects
• Baldwin County Airport Improvements
• Blandy Rd. Resurfacing and Operational Improvements
• SR540/Fall Line Fwy. on new location from US441/Wilkinson to SR24
• Transit Capital-Purchase New Vans
• US 441 North Bypass Construction

 

WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION?

Education Websites:

Connect Georgia, funded through the Altanta-based organization Georgia Transportation Alliance: www.connectgeorgia2012.com

Georgia Chamber of Commerce:

http://www.gachamber.com/transportationalliance/

Also: www.it3.ga.gov, www.dot.ga.gov/localgovernment/FundingPrograms.

http://www.gasplost.org/

Georgia Taxpayers Alliance:

http://gataxpayer.wordpress.com/t-splost/

The Chamber website and Facebook pages will post upcoming educational opportunities before July 31.

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