Bill offers option of smaller T-SPLOST | www.myajc.com

22
Jan

Bill offers option of smaller T-SPLOST | www.myajc.com

Since voters in metro Atlanta and eight other regions of the state rejected T-SPLOST referendums in summer 2012, politicians have been loath to raise the issue again.

However, a bill pending this year seeks to revive a smaller, more flexible version of the plan that allows residents to vote on taxing themselves to fund a way out of traffic congestion. (The 2012 metro Atlanta vote involved a penny sales tax for a 10-county region.)

It’s unclear if the legislation will gain any traction in an election year that is expected to result in an unusually swift 2014 General Assembly session. Still, the idea of smaller T-SPLOSTs already has supporters such as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee, and could turn around some opponents of the 2012 vote.

House Bill 195 would allow two or more neighboring counties to create special districts for the purpose of enacting a transportation sales tax. If HB 195 passes, then counties that want to form such a district would have to ask the General Assembly to pass legislation allowing a referendum. Voters in those counties could then decide whether to support a sales tax of up to a penny for a period of three to 10 years (as opposed to the 10-year T-SPLOST).

A similar concept was floated in 2008 in a proposed constitutional amendment that fell three votes shy of passing in the Senate. The current bill was introduced last year and carried over to this year’s session. Its sponsor, Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, said he plans to tweak the wording this year to allow cities as well as counties to take part in the formation of special taxation districts.

“If DeKalb, and the city of Atlanta and perhaps even Clayton County wanted to bind together for a MARTA funding region, why shouldn’t they be able to do that in a way that serves their priorities?” Setzler asked rhetorically. “In the same way, north Fulton might be able to bind with Cobb, Forsyth or Gwinnett County to fund more connectivity on arterials along the northern part of the metro area.”

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