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Bill using sales taxes for road projects may not fly politically
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A bill that would fund transportation projects through sales taxes is a moving target, lawmakers say.

House Bill 1218 would give residents of 12 districts in the state the opportunity to vote for a 1 percent sales tax to fund regional transportation projects, which would be determined at the time of a referendum.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Jim Cole of Forsyth, uses the same 12 districts as the state’s regional planning commissions, meaning road projects for Hall County would have to be approved by residents in Forsyth, Dawson, White, and nine other counties.

The House Transportation Committee held hearings on the bill Tuesday and Wednesday, and the bill is likely to see a number of changes before it reaches the House floor.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, who serves as the chairman of the House panel’s special subcommittee on transportation funding, said the bill already has been through four or five drafts and more amendments are on the way.

The bill passed out of Rogers’ subcommittee Monday. Under the plan, regions that vote to approve the tax increase would have money to spend on local road and infrastructure projects. Others could reject the increase and would not see any additional funding.

But Gov. Sonny Perdue says the part of the bill allowing individual regions to opt out make it a “nonstarter.”

Perdue says the whole state needs to be offered the opportunity to join in.

He suggested he might veto the measure if the opt-out measure isn’t removed, saying lawmakers who tacked it on will “bear the consequences.”

“There’s still a lot of debate going on,” Rogers said. “... We’ve still got a ways to go. Where we stop, nobody knows right now.”

The bill likely will be discussed in full committee next week, too, Rogers said.

Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, said he had not yet seen the bill, but said he knew it will be a sensitive issue if it makes it to the House floor.

While he said there were other options looming for transportation funding, Mills said the regional sales tax seems to have the most support right now.

“Transportation bills are a lot like reapportionment bills — if you change one part of a transportation bill ... then you’ve changed it for the whole state,” Mills said. “So trying to work out a transportation bill that is viewed as equitable by those from the metro areas and from those representatives and senators from the rural areas is a very tough task.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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