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3 Hall lawmakers say transportation tax is necessary
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Three state legislators representing Hall County say they support a proposed 1 percent transportation sales tax, which goes before voters July 31.State Sen. Butch Miller and Reps. Carl Rogers and Emory Dunahoo Jr. spoke on the subject Thursday afternoon at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors meeting at the Gainesville Civic Center.The lawmakers said they didn’t want a tax increase, but believe there are no other viable options for funding transportation in Georgia.The remarks were made as part of a presentation on the legislative session that ended March 29.Miller said he has “gone on record repeatedly for being in favor of” the tax, which would raise Hall County’s sales tax to 8 percent from 7 percent, “and the tea party is after me for it.“And that’s OK. I spoke to a group of them a few weeks ago and said I’m going to give you all the information ... and either convert you to my way of thinking or make me your enemy for life, and I don’t give a damn which.”The remark drew laughter from the audience.The tax would last 10 years or until the estimated revenues of nearly $1.25 billion are raised in the 13-county Georgia Mountains region, including Hall, whichever comes first.Voters statewide will decide on the issue, which will be approved or rejected in individual regions. The referendum passes by a majority vote.The chamber’s board of directors voted in the fall to endorse the tax, and green-and-blue buttons saying “I’m voting Yes! for transportation on July 31” were handed out at Thursday’s meeting.A table with other information, including pamphlets and maps, also was on display.Miller recalled riding on Spout Springs Road as a youth, and “it’s the same roadbed today that it was 47 years ago.”Today, he pointed out, the road features the largest high school and one of the largest churches in the county and is about to serve as a road leading to Northeast Georgia Health System’s South Hall hospital, planned to open in 2015.“We’re going to have even more transportation problems if we don’t take a forward-thinking, visionary approach to it,” Miller said.Dunahoo said that when he ran for the House seat last year, he was against another penny sales tax “and we don’t follow through with the funds and where they’re supposed to go.”He added that he supports the roads tax, “because we have no other plan,” he said.