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Your Views: Sales tax really is about economic growth

POSTED: July 20, 2012 1:00 a.m.

Georgia is weary from the recession. Despite promising signs of a recovery, more than 400,000 remain unemployed. Business owners like myself are ready to move forward but still need greater assurance the economy is coming back.

Then comes the T-SPLOST referendum, which many economists and state leaders call the biggest economic development opportunity over the past half-century. I won’t pretend T-SPLOST is the sole remedy to our woes, but it provides a glimmer of hope in this season of distress.

If T-SPLOST passes in our 13-county Georgia Mountains region, as well as in the 11 others statewide, this single penny on the dollar would pump an estimated $18.67 billion into our state economy over the next decade.

The spinoff effect would be an increase in the state GDP by $154 billion over 30 years and creation of 290,000 jobs. In our region alone, T-SPLOST is estimated to raise $1.2 billion and add more than 34,000 jobs.

These numbers speak the real truth about T-SPLOST. Make no mistake, T-SPLOST is all about economic development.
Some say T-SPLOST adds too much of a tax burden at a critical time. While a valid concern, opponents are focused on way too many trees rather than the bigger picture of a more abundant forest.

We’ve heard about the direct benefits to Hall County if T-SPLOST passes: a return of $1.45 on every dollar of sales tax raised due to our recipient status as a regional economic center. But the real impact is sharpening our economic edge to attract new industry.

A community’s transportation infrastructure is one of the single most important factors weighed by companies looking to relocate. The list of T-SPLOST roadway projects slated for Hall County and our region would accelerate completion of critical corridors for moving goods and expanding services.

Some also question why we’re just now coming around to a measure like T-SPLOST when our roads and highways have been in relatively good shape. We’ve simply fallen behind due to a strained and outdated motor use fuel tax. Statistics reveal that Georgia has dropped to near dead last in transportation spending per capita. As fuel tax collections have fallen, we’re spending a greater proportion on debt service and road maintenance, leaving a rapidly shrinking pie for new infrastructure.

Is it any wonder that the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, with its staunch record of opposing any tax increase, is squarely behind T-SPLOST? Or that the statewide effort to pass T-SPLOST is led by Republicans and Democrats? You’d be hard-pressed to find another political issue with such bipartisan support.

If the referendum succeeds in other regions and not here, it would be a black mark on our record of economic development, job creation and quality of life. We stand to lose any momentum gained in our economic recovery. And we would have no choice but look to less-desirable alternative sources of transportation funding.

As you draw your curtain in the ballot booth, remember that a “yes” vote for the one-penny transportation tax opens another curtain — one of economic opportunity and promise for this blessed community.

Phillip Wilheit
Gainesville


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