The transportation sales tax referendum was defeated in most parts of Georgia on Tuesday but no place worse than the 13-county Georgia Mountains region, which includes Hall County.
In the Georgia Mountains, the overall vote, with 12 of the 13 counties reporting, was 25 percent in favor and 75 percent against it. Only Towns County didn’t have a final tally at press time.
Hall closely mirrored the region’s vote, with 74.19 percent voting against the measure and 25.81 percent voting in favor.
At presstime, the referendum appeared headed for defeat in nine of 12 regions in Georgia, including the 10-county Atlanta region.
“I am extremely excited and grateful that through the leadership of the tea parties all across Georgia that the citizens of Georgia recognized this unconstitutional T-SPLOST as such, and have voted to stop it,” said Mike Scupin, local coordinator of the Lanier Tea Party Patriots.
“But my excitement is mitigated by the fact that Gov. (Nathan) Deal, a former congressman, came out in favor of such an obviously unconstitutional plan that violates the home rule portion of Georgia’s Constitution.”
Scupin said he was even more disappointed that Hall County state lawmakers “jumped in lockstep to promote (the sales tax).”
“The citizens of Georgia are to be congratulated for showing more wisdom and discernment than our Georgia politicians,” Scupin said.
“Georgia does need a plan for roads and road improvements, but this was the wrong plan and the wrong time to foster this onto the taxpayers of Georgia.”
The referendum caught early fire when officials and proponents alluded to the lack of a “Plan B” or at least an acceptable alternative if the sales tax vote failed.
Officials have said the state would have to lean on declining gas tax revenues unless some other answer is found.
“It’s clearly a mandate and I respect the people’s vote,” said state Sen. Butch Miller, a Flowery Branch Republican and supporter of the sales tax. “You’ve got to respect the opinion of the citizenry. That’s the most important thing.”
The chamber’s board of directors voted last fall to endorse the sales tax. Dunlap also helped lead Citizens for Better Transportation: Region 2, Georgia, which had launched a website in support of the measure.
Had the referendum passed, the Georgia Mountains region would have amassed some $1.25 billion in sales tax revenue over 10 years or when that revenue amount was reached, whichever came first.
Hall County would have gotten $300 million for regional projects and $60 million for local governments to use at their discretion.
Lamar Paris, Union County sole commissioner, led the transportation roundtable that helped create the projects list for the vote. He said he wasn’t surprised by the vote.
“Despite all the arguments for and against it, the bottom line is these are hard economic times and people aren’t going to vote for a tax increase, no matter how much sense it makes,” Paris said.