Metro Atlanta voters on July 31  soundly rejected an $8 billion sales tax to pay for a mixture of transportation projects intended to fight traffic gridlock in the region and to create jobs over the next decade.

The Georgia Secretary of State reported that with more than 670,000 votes counted, about 62 percent of the votes were cast against the controversial tax and about 38 percent were in favor.

Bob Dallas

“I guess the city that’s too busy to hate isn’t too busy to wait,” said Dunwoody lawyer and former state transportation official Bob Dallas, a public proponent of the tax. “For the foreseeable future, we’ll be sitting in traffic.”

Dallas, who writes an occasional blog for ReporterNewspapers.net, said state officials should look for an alternate plan that provides for regional governance for transit systems, such as MARTA, and takes into account some of the arguments raised by opponents of the penny sales tax.

Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-DeKalb County, said state lawmakers need to develop an alternative to the plan rejected by voters.

Mike Jacobs

“Clearly, it’s back to the drawing board for the General Assembly,” said Jacobs, who was a non-voting member of the group that drew up the list of projects to be funded through the tax. “What that looks like is anybody’s guess.”

The regional sales tax was projected to raise about $8 billion over its 10-year life.

Of that amount, about $6.1 billion would have been dedicated to a list of 57 regional transportation projects selected by mayors and county. Another $1.1 billion was to be divided among local governments, such as the cities of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, for use on local transportation projects.

Under the Transportation Improvement Act approved by the Georgia Legislature, the metro Atlanta area was one of 12 multi-county regions in the state. Each region developed its own list of projects to be financed by a sales tax.

The metro Atlanta region encompasses Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, Clayton, Cherokee, Douglas, Fayette, Henry and Rockdale counties.

The tax was heavily supported by business groups, such as the Greater Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

It drew public opposition from a variety of organizations, from the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, to various anti-tax groups such as the Dunwoody Tea Party..

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.