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Transportation funding vote could be delayed

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A referendum on a new 1 percent sales tax for transportation projects might join Augusta's referendum on funding a stadium-entertainment complex and the presidential election in 2012.

Todd Long, the planning director for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said the state is weighing the options of moving the transportation referendum, originally scheduled for the July 2012 general primary, to the November 2012 general election.

Turnout for the general election will be much higher, potentially allowing the sales tax vote to get "lost in the shuffle" but also greatly increasing any marketing costs associated with the tax, which cannot be paid using public money, he said.

Long made the remarks Wednesday at a meeting of the Central Savannah River Area Regional Transportation Roundtable's executive committee, whose members were given a week to go home to prioritize their 13 counties' wish lists of transportation projects.

What's on the list likely will sway voters in an area where a Georgia Municipal Association study last week showed that only 12.9 percent of officials polled believed the tax referendum would pass today.

A key to winning the tax's passage is making its discretionary money attractive to all the counties, roundtable Chairman Ron Cross said.

If approved by voters, the tax would be used to fund about $630 million in road projects over 10 years, but 25 percent of the proceeds would be returned to the counties for use on transportation projects.

The committee members returned home Wednesday to prioritize lists of projects totaling more than $2.6 billion. With the discretionary funding taken out, only $630 million for projects is expected to be collected over the tax's 10-year life span.


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