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Georgia chamber pushing 1 percent roads tax
Efforts include spending $2-$3M on advertising outside of metro Atlanta
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Roads tax

Here’s the schedule for the proposed 1 percent transportation tax:
Aug. 15: Deadline for executive committees of larger transportation “roundtables” to develop project lists matching estimated revenue and project costs
Oct. 15: Deadline for roundtables, comprising top elected officials from throughout the regions, to approve final lists that will go before voters. Public hearings will be held before the vote.
July 31, 2012: Statewide referendum

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to promote statewide passage of next summer's referendum on the planned 1 percent sales tax for transportation.

Efforts include spending $2 million to $3 million on an advertising campaign in markets outside metro Atlanta, public policy director Ryan Mahoney told a regional transportation panel meeting in Gainesville Thursday.

The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce has taken the lead in marketing the vote in metro Atlanta, he said.

"We're going to be ... helping provide some support and coordinating with local folks, such as yourselves, local chambers of commerce and business leaders on strategy in each of the other 11 regions," Mahoney said.

The state's Transportation Investment Act of 2010 calls for regions throughout the state to develop road project lists to put before voters in July 2012.

The tax, if approved by a majority of voters in the region, would last for 10 years, with 75 percent of proceeds going to regional projects and 25 percent going to local governments to use as they see fit.

Also, the law calls for the formation of a transportation "roundtable" to oversee developing the list. An executive committee, made up of members within the roundtable, will do most of the work putting together the list using estimated tax revenue and project costs.

The roundtable comprises top city and county leaders from throughout the region.

Hall County is part of the 13-county Georgia Mountains region, which estimates it would receive about $1.26 billion from the tax over six years.

The Georgia Mountains' executive meeting has held two meetings, including one Thursday at Georgia Mountains Regional Commission offices on West Ridge Road, toward putting together the final list.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Chamber has created the Georgia Transportation Alliance to focus on transportation planning as it relates to economic development throughout the state.

The tax vote "is the first major initiative that we're going to be tackling," Mahoney said. "We've already gotten commitments for several hundred thousand dollars."

The $2 million to $3 million may sound large, "but it's actually a bargain," he said. "The (goal) right now is $12 million for the metro Atlanta region, of which they hope to capture half of that."

Each of the 11 regions outside metro Atlanta "is different," Mahoney said. "What sells in Dalton may not be the exact same message in Savannah, Columbus or Macon.

"But the underlying theme is the same — it's jobs and economic development. ... This is a unique opportunity for the state to improve their transportation network and grow jobs in the state."

Mahoney said when "you have set the project list ... that is when our effort really kicks starts. We're not attempting to influence the project list.

"We're counting on you to win the primary for us and give us a good candidate - that candidate being a good project list."

Final lists, once approved by each region's executive committee, go before full roundtables for approval by Oct. 15.

Public meetings must take place before the roundtable's final approval, said Stephanie Harmon, regional planner for the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.

"No decision has been made as to where these meetings will be held," she said.