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Officials hear of regional road tax plan
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City and county officials met Tuesday to discuss the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, a house bill that would mean a new one percent Georgia sales tax.
The mayors of Liberty County’s municipalities listened as Sonny Timmerman, executive director of Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, highlighted House Bill 277’s main points.
According to information from the Hinesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the bill would:
• create special tax districts to develop, coordinate and construct transportation projects.
• keep the tax, if approved, in effect for 10 years.
• establish a fund or funds to provide at least 20 years of maintenance and operation costs.
• generate money to construct, finance or otherwise develop transit projects.
According to an Aug. 3 press release from the Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia residents will vote in summer 2012 on the regional sales tax to fund projects in their regions. The Hinesville Area MPO estimates the tax may raise more than $1.5 billion in its first year, which would be 2013.
Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver stressed that all Georgia county leaders need to understand the bill thoroughly so they can adequately explain details to the voters.  
“It is up to voters to accept this tax,” he said to a group of about 12 people, mostly city and county officials. “No one likes to pay taxes, even one penny.”
The funds will be used for new or existing transportation-related projects, including bridges, bus and rail mass transit systems, freight and passenger rail, pedestrian facilities, bike lanes and airports. Other projects may include ports and roads.
Timmerman emphasized, “This isn’t something anyone is advocating.”
Stipulations include the fact that all funds raised must be spent in the district; 75 percent of funds must be spent on projects from an approved list, and 25 percent will be returned to local governments for transportation use.
Each tax district also will have a “roundtable,” comprised of two county officials: the chair of the county commission and one mayor from a city in that county.
According to Timmerman’s presentation, three non-voting legislators also will be named to an executive committee, which will work with the GDOT on the project list.
Timmerman also went over limitations and exceptions pertaining to the proposed tax. Certain jet fuel and equipment fuel at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will be tax-exempt. The new act restricts taxes on new vehicle sales up to $5,000.
In the next 28 days, local governments must compile a list of what the tax-generated funds would be used for in each region and submit it to the state, McIver said.
A citizens review panel also will be created in each district.
Gum Branch and Midway mayors did not attend the informational meeting.

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