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Roads tax good for economic development, state chamber CEO says
Clark says Georgia falling behind other states on infrastructure
Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, speaks during The Rotary Club of Gainesville’s luncheon at the First Baptist Church banquet hall Monday afternoon.

The $1.2 billion estimated to be generated over 10 years in Northeast Georgia by a proposed transportation sales tax equates to about 40,000 new construction jobs, the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce said Monday.

"And Lord knows we need construction jobs in this state right now," Chris Clark told the Rotary Club of Gainesville, meeting at the First Baptist Church of Gainesville on Green Street.

"It's going to be good for economic development," he said, adding that's why the state chamber is supporting area chamber officials in their work to promote passage of the tax on July 31.

"Not because we think it's going to be an easy slam-dunk win, but because it's hard," Clark said. "And because it's the right thing to do, and we're unapologetic about it."

Voters statewide will vote on the transportation sales tax, but the issue will be decided through a majority vote in 12 individual regions throughout the state.

Hall County, part of the 13-county Georgia Mountains region, is expected to receive about $300 million for regional projects if the tax is approved.

Under the Transportation Investment Act, 75 percent of proceeds would go for regional projects and 25 percent would go to local governments to use at their discretion, including for maintenance and operations.

Hall County governments would receive an additional $60 million-plus from the 25
percent allocation.

The regional projects have been determined, but officials are working on a list of how they believe the 25 percent amount should be spent.

"Nobody in here wants to pay more taxes," Clark told the Rotarians, adding that the Georgia chamber is "not a pro-tax organization. Most of what we try to do ... is try to cut taxes.

"But in this case, we're pragmatic enough to know that we're falling behind our other states in infrastructure investment."

Clark said that the tax issue is "critical for us" after the legislative session ends in March.

"The No. 1 most important economic development issue for Georgia is deepening the port in Savannah," he said.

"It's the No. 2 port in the country for exports and so, (for) the goods and products you're making here, the more ships that we have coming in and out of Savannah the more opportunity you have to sell those products.

"It's an economic engine in every county in Georgia."