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Tweaking the Single County ‘T-SPLOST’

January 15, 2017
This article appeared in the January 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
GMA’s government relations team anticipates that legislation will be introduced to adjust the T-SPLOST law to allow more than one T-SPLOST in each county as long as the amount levied does not exceed 1 percent.
 
GMA will also support a proposed change to the law that allows any portion of a T-SPLOST for transit and rail projects to be levied for a maximum of 20 years.
 
“Mobility for people and goods is achieved only through investments in transportation capital,” said GMA’s Director of Governmental Relation Tom Gehl. “After years of documented underfunding of transportation infrastructure, in 2010 the legislature passed the Transportation Investment Act to allow the twelve regions in the state to vote on a one percent sales tax for ten years to fund transportation projects.”
 
Three regions passed the tax in 2012, and the tax revenue collected to-date in those regions is $505,957,924 million.
 
“While this was extremely positive for those three regions whose voters chose to make those investments, nine regions of the state still lacked an infusion of funds,” Gehl said.
 
Without going into extensive detail, the approval granted in these special districts is a fractional sales tax up to a minimum of one percent for a period of up to five years.
 
In the fall of 2015 after the passage of House Bill 106, which established an option for single county-level T-SPLOSTs in counties that aren’t in Transportation Investment Act regions, Fulton County Deputy Manager Todd Long, formerly the state DOT planning director, convened county and city leaders in Fulton to discuss the possibility of calling for a T-SPLOST to address their transportation needs. At the same time, the Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) was making the case for additional funding for their transit operations. There emerged a schism in these talks related to how MARTA could access additional funding based upon the provisions of HB106.
 
Voters of Fulton County and the cities within the county approved a .75 percent, five-year tax for “Congestion Relief/Roadway Projects; Operations & Safety; Maintenance; Pedestrian /Bike-Landscape and Streetscape Projects.” It is estimated that the tax will generate $570 million in five years. (If passed, sales tax rate will be 7.75 percent.)
 
Atlanta voters approved a .4 percent, five-year tax to fund major projects like completing the Atlanta BeltLine 22-mile loop, 15 complete streets projects, major pedestrian and bicycle improvements across the City, and high-tech traffic signal optimization. Estimates are that the tax will generate over $380 million over the lifespan of the tax.
 
The transportation funding challenge may have been solved at the state level, but many city and county leaders will look to the T-SPLOST option as the local mobility difficulties remain.