ATLANTA — State leaders meeting with members of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce during Tuesday’s visit to the Capitol all got the same question: How is the transportation tax going?
They all gave a positive response, starting with Gov. Nathan Deal.
“I’ve made the pledge that I do not think that we should do anything that would send the wrong signal to those parts of our state, the regions that have adopted the TSPLOST,” he said, referring to the transportation special purpose local option sales tax.
He was talking about Senate Bill 73, by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, which would repeal the funding difference between regions – such as Augusta’s – that passed the tax in the July referendum and those that didn’t. Local governments in regions that passed the tax have to pay for only 10 percent of state projects, while those that didn’t must pony up 30 percent.
“Y’all have taken the initiative, and I’m going to make sure that you’re not disadvantaged because of that,” the governor said.
Don Grantham, a former Augusta Commission member who now serves on the state Transportation Board, told the group other communities are already wishing they had actually passed the tax themselves so they could have funding to correct their own roads.
“I don’t think we’re looking at any rescinding of any of the bills (that created the tax),” he said.
State Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden told the group that the pieces are in place to accelerate construction of the projects funded by the tax when collections become available March 1. Staffers are dedicated to the program, an outside firm is being contracted to watch the money and a citizen-review panel has been appointed to oversee everything, he said.
One project has already begun at Wrightsboro Road.
“The program is moving very rapidly. Implementation is moving very rapidly,” said Mike Dover, the Department of Transportation’s administrator of the sales tax projects. “… Me and the commissioner and our whole board understand the urgency to implement this program.”