Whether we choose to admit it or not, our neighboring states are our competitors. And lately, we have let them gain the upper hand.
Despite the fact that Georgia is one of the fastest-growing states, according to the 2010 Census, we are 49th in per-capita spending on transportation infrastructure. If Georgia is going to fulfill its economic potential, something must be done. A “penny tax” for transportation is an enormous investment opportunity.
On July 31, we have an opportunity to vote on a 1 percent transportation special-purpose local option sales tax that will fund local projects right here in the CSRA region, which includes Richmond and Columbia counties and 11 other counties in our part of the state.
A “YES” VOTE for the transportation referendum will put our economy in the fast lane and will leave our competition – inside and outside the state – in the dust.
The TSPLOST is projected to raise nearly $840 million in the CSRA. According to a study by the Federal Highway Administration, that amount of money translates to supporting nearly 23,000 jobs in our region. Those are jobs that our neighbors and children desperately need to make ends meet in these uncertain economic times.
Here in Augusta we have an illustration of the importance of transportation infrastructure on our doorstep. It is no surprise that Business Week, Forbes and the Brookings Institution have praised Augusta for its economic resiliency. Augusta’s exceptional infrastructure (and our continued promise to improve it) is what has made our home so appealing to employers.
BY IMPROVING OUR connectivity, the TSPLOST is a necessary means of securing our economic future. From extending Riverwatch Parkway via Old Petersburg Road to Washington Road, to widening and upgrading Windsor Spring and Wrightsboro Roads, the planned TSPLOST-funded projects will enhance our area’s connectivity to the rest of the state so Augusta may fully utilize our Interstate 20 resources and become an even greater economic hub in the Southeast.
Every penny raised in our region will be spent only on local projects in our region. Plus, 25 percent of the total raised through the TSPLOST will be available to our local governments to fund needed improvement projects that are not already on the regionally approved project list.
AS A CONSERVATIVE voter, I believe we need to rethink the way we fund transportation here in Georgia. We need a conservative solution. We should take the power to choose and fund projects out of the hands of Washington and Atlanta, and give it back to the local citizens who have a vested interest in the success of these projects. This is why I support the TSPLOST: It is a fair option that will lead to more jobs and safer roads with the guarantee of local control through the whole process.
I WOULD HATE to see us miss out on valuable economic opportunities because of the fear of “a penny.” That, and all the benefits provided by the TSPLOST, is why I will be voting “yes” for the TSPLOST on Tuesday.
(The writer is chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce committee on the TSPLOST.)