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Be afraid – very afraid – of T-SPLOST

By Walter Geiger Citizens of Lamar and Pike counties should be vigilant in the coming months as projects are prioritized for transportation SPLOST initiatives to be placed on the ballot in 2012. With funding fading and Georgia’s so-called leaders hesitant to increase its gas tax which is among the lowest in the nation, T-SPLOST is the funding mechanism of the future for transportation projects. That would be fine if the monies collected at home stayed at home but that scenario makes too much sense to be adopted by Gov. Sonny Perdue and his minions. Instead, the tax will be levied over the 10county Three Rivers Regional Commission district. In addition to Pike and Lamar, those counties include Coweta, Carroll, Spalding, Troup, Heard, Upson, Butts and Meriwether. Even worse, it will be voted on district wide. So, those here at home could vote overwhelmingly against such a measure only to have it pass anyway. In fact, voters in two of the large counties with projects they heavily support could carry the entire vote, leaving those in the smaller counties paying for improvements they will never benefit from. And, to add insult to injury, Gov. Perdue rejected at the last minute a proposal that would have allowed counties to opt out of the T-SPLOST process. The projects to be placed on the ballot will be chosen by a 20 member regional roundtable consisting of the commission chair from each county and one mayor from each county. The executive committee which will wield near absolute power will be made up of five members from the roundtable, two state representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House and one senator appointed by the Lt. Governor. Georgia’s Department of Transportation – a politically driven machine if there ever was one – will also have heavy input. What does all that mean? It means that politics and political power – not need will drive the process. It will be critical for the Lamar and Pike appointees to the roundtable to be vocal and assertive. They will also need to form strong alliances with their counterparts from the other rural counties to guarantee worthy local projects make the ballot. Otherwise, everyone shopping here at home will be contributing to projects like an overpass in Newnan, a bypass in LaGrange or a commuter rail station in Griffin that will be of absolute no benefit to them. Make sure that you put your local elected officials, state representative and state senator on notice that you expect to see enough worthy projects on the list to make it worth your money. You need to have a say in how the money is spent for you certainly will have none as to whether or not it will be plucked from your pocket.

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