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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

State reps want to delay vote on transportation tax

A group of state representatives want to delay the referendum on a one-cent sales tax to fund new roads and transit throughout metro Atlanta to iron out several constitutional kinks. The Marietta Daily Journal reports that state Rep. Ed Setzler, the Acworth Republican who's been casting doubts on the regional transportation tax and its project list for months, thinks the Georgia constitution doesn't allow regional taxes to fund transportation. He's filed a bill with the support of several colleagues that would, among other things:

* Eliminate the [Transportation Investment Act, or TIA] referendum set for July 31;
* Ask voters to amend the state constitution in November to allow for a regional transportation mechanism, thereby solving the question of whether the TIA is constitutional or not;
* Allow counties to band together in whatever combination they want through intergovernmental agreements and call for a transportation referendum;
* Allow counties to opt in to the proposed tax once their county commissions have ratified a transportation project list;
* Call for a July 2014 transportation referendum;
* Give counties the option to levy a fraction of a penny for the 10-year tax;
* Require the county or counties who are sponsoring a fixed transit system, such as light rail, to agree to pay for the ongoing operations of that transit system after the 10-year tax.

Now, it's hard to tell whether Setzler's trying to delay the vote because he's simply opposed to the idea of new taxes, even to pay for much-needed transportation improvements, and that revisiting the issue might give opponents another chance to kill the measure. Or hell, maybe his heart's in the right place and he wants the state to cover its ass and prevent a drawn-out legal battle. Place your bets.

UPDATE, 11:05 p.m.: A spokeswomen for the metro Atlanta business community's campaign to pass the tax says in a statement sent earlier this evening:

"More than 200,000 commuters participated in generating a project list that netted a unanimous vote of the Regional Roundtable. Further delay and inaction on addressing our region’s most pressing need puts us at a disadvantage to our competitors. We need to honor the legislative process that began over six years ago and allow the voters to have a say on the current project list in July."

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