The vote on a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects in a 13-county region around Augusta was leading 54 to 46 percent with results still needed for nine precincts in three counties.
Counties including Burke, Jenkins, McDuffie, Richmond, Taliaferro, Washington and Wilkes passed the measure, commonly called TSPLOST. It was rejected in Columbia, Glascock and Lincoln counties. Early today, votes were not final for Hancock, Jefferson and Warren counties.
If approved, revenue totaling $841 million will fund a list of projects including roads, bridges, airports and public transit that were compiled by county leaders. All projects must be completed during the 10-year collection period.
In 2010, the Georgia Legislature passed the Transportation Investment Act allowing voters to decide the issue. Throughout an aggressive campaign for the tax, its supporters said transportation investment is crucial for future economic growth.
Phil Wahl, chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s TSPLOST Committee, said the vote puts Augusta at an economic advantage, noting that a majority of other Georgia regions did not appear likely to support the tax.
“We get funding for those projects that have already been identified to improve transportation and increase connectivity in our region,” Wahl said.
Augusta voter Richard Schultz said he voted in favor of the tax because of the economic promises.
“Just look at the roads in this state and this county. (TSPLOST will) put people to work who need it. Hire them and make these roads better,” Schultz said.
Opponents, however, called the tax a historic mistake that will hurt a cash-strapped economy.
“It’s more tax coming out of the economy and it’s less money the consumer will have available,” said Al Gray, a Columbia County activist.
Collections will begin in January, if approved. The Georgia Department of Transportation will be mostly responsible for project delivery.
Connect Georgia, an entity created by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to promote the referendum, estimated that 22,700 jobs will be created in Augusta’s region through the TSPLOST effort.