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Henry Chamber pushing transportation funding

Henry Commission Chairman Elizabeth “B.J.” Mathis (left), spoke at the county’s Chamber of Commerce, recently, about the Transportation Investment Act of 2010. A referendum on the proposed legislation is due for a vote, in July.

Henry Commission Chairman Elizabeth “B.J.” Mathis (left), spoke at the county’s Chamber of Commerce, recently, about the Transportation Investment Act of 2010. A referendum on the proposed legislation is due for a vote, in July.

Business leaders in Henry County gathered, recently, to continue to hear about the latest push for statewide transportation funding in the area. The Henry Chamber of Commerce hosted a Business Boosters Luncheon to discuss the Transportation Investment Act of 2010.

The proposed legislation centers on a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST). The tax would fund $6.14 billion in road projects, over 10 years, for a 10-county area that includes Henry and Clayton counties.

“The Transportation Investment Act of 2010 put the future of Georgia’s transportation in the voters’ hands,” said Chamber President Kay Pippin. “Elected officials in each of Georgia’s 12 regions developed a list of projects to be funded by a one-percent sales tax. Georgians will vote on the tax via a referendum in the 2012 primary elections [in July].”

A 21-member regional roundtable, made up of county and city leaders, unanimously approved the projects list on Oct. 13, 2011.

“Henry County’s share of the list totals $193 million in sales tax revenue over a 10-year period,” said Pippin. “In addition, Henry County government, and each of Henry’s four cities, will receive a 15 percent discretionary amount, totaling about $74 million. This means the county’s direct return on projects and the discretionary funding is $267 million.”

Henry Commission Chairman Elizabeth “B.J.” Mathis, spoke at a recent luncheon about her involvement with the ARC roundtable’s executive committee, as part of the region’s transportation plan. One initiative she has worked to keep a part of the proposed tax, is express bus service through the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA).

“We were told by the governor that, if it’s not funded in the T-SPLOST, it’s going away,” said Mathis. “That service is critical to Henry County. It’s critical to our community going into Atlanta, especially with gas prices continuing to increase. If you factor in the direct return to Henry County in projects ... and you add the impact of the GRTA express on top of that, Henry County would receive an almost 100 percent return on everything we generate within our borders.”

Mathis added that all the money generated in the region through the T-SPLOST, would stay in the region. “What we do with this referendum will determine the future of our region,” said Mathis. “But, we have to invest in our infrastructure, if we’re going to remain strong.”

Matthew Fowler, an assistant planning director for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said funding for road projects is “woefully inadequate” across the state. He emphasized a need for voters to support the transportation act, to improve roads in the region and the state.

“We don’t have a broad revenue source,” said Fowler. “We rely primarily on the motor-fuel tax. A lot of other states have a broad range of revenues coming in ... so, our funding is way off.”