Proponents of a 1-cent regional transportation sales tax say they will tackle public skepticism about taxes and road projects before the July 31 vote on the tax.

About 60 people attended a discussion of the sales tax that was hosted by the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts on Friday, May 18.

Critics of the new tax have questioned whether the money will be spent as promised, said Michael Paris, president of the Council for Quality Growth. Some critics point to the state’s decision to extend tolls on Ga. 400 as an example of how politicians can change the rules, he said.

“This is very different,” he said.

Paris said the regional sales tax may last only 10 years and must be spent only on a set of projects designated by a regional transportation round table. “This is locked down pretty tight.”

The tax, collected in a 10-county region, is expected to provide $8.5 billion for transportation projects. Eighty-five percent of the money is designated for 157 identified regional projects and the remaining 15 percent will be spent on local projects.

Kathryn Lawler, external affairs manager for the Atlanta Regional Commission, said the organization is planning a series of “wireside chats,” telephone calls during which residents can question local elected officials about the tax.  To register for the chat, go to www.wiresidechats.com or call 404-463-3227.

Tad Leithead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, said projects paid for with the tax proceeds are expected to have a $34.5 billion impact on the economy. “We’ll be investing $8.5 billion for a $34.5 billion return,” he said.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.