Augusta’s legislative delegation and Augusta Commission members haven’t always had the best relationship, but after meeting for the first time in two years Tuesday, they seemed to agree on one thing: A whopping amount of money will soon start to flow into city coffers as collections begin for the Transportation Investment Act.
“You’re talking about a lot of money, about $800 million over a 10-year span. About half of that will be coming through Augusta,” said state Rep. Wayne Howard, one of five Augusta legislators at a joint meeting with commissioners Tuesday.
Former Commissioner Don Grantham, now a state Department of Transportation board member, spoke about the transportation sales tax and the city’s role in ensuring that road contractors use minority subcontractors. That responsibility will fall on local contractors and the city engineering department, which will put the projects out for bids, but Augusta can enforce the process by adopting a similar DOT resolution of support, he said.
News that the tax includes more than $5 million designated for Augusta Public Transit was well-received, though some disagreed about how best to use it for bus service expansion. Commissioner Alvin Mason said a transit authority would ensure “it cannot just be turned back arbitrarily,” while Rep. Earnest Smith agreed with Sen. Hardie Davis that an additional governing authority might “create an additional layer of government.”
Commissioners Bill Lockett and Donnie Smith said keeping lines of communication with the delegation would prevent legislative surprises locally. Smith cited last year’s sales tax exemption for energy used in manufacturing, which he said benefited Augusta manufacturers but left an unexpected hole in the city’s sales tax budget.
Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson gave his support for the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Act, which provides tax incentives for private-sector investments in downtown and goes before the General Assembly this year.
Many said the meeting was productive.
“It’s really important to set the tone for a new year,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.