Editor: Before Bryan County citizens decide how to vote on TSPLOST, they should consider the facts on why it’s being proposed and if it is in their best interest.
First, let’s admit that we have a traffic problem. Every day we sit in traffic on 17, 144, Harris Trail, and other roads and this is time we are not spending with our family or at work. Unless something is done, it will keep getting worse and worse. Imagine 144 in 10 years! In addition to lost time, maintaining existing jobs and enticing new jobs here depends on interconnectivity.
Time is money in logistics and service delivery. Currently, almost 3,000 of Georgia’s bridges are functionally obsolete or structurally deficient.
Second, let’s check if we have enough funding to handle the need. Roads are built and maintained with state and federal motor fuel taxes (MFT). The federal government distributes MORE than they collect from federal highway taxes back to the states.
When Congress finally is forced to deal with the deficit, we can expect a 25-30 percent cut in future federal highway spending. Revenue from the MFT is based on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and vehicle fuel efficiency. Georgia’s VMT is flat due to the economy and increased use of the computer to shop and be entertained. Fuel efficiency is being steadily improved due to technology and reaction to higher gas prices. 50 percnet of all of Georgia’s road funding goes simply to maintain and operate our existing roads. Another 25 percent goes to debt for past and present construction. That leaves very little for job creation, safety improvements, and increased capacity. Those are the facts.
So, Georgia and Bryan County faces three choices: We can do nothing and let traffic get worse and roads deteriorate. Or we can cut spending somewhere else (like education and health care) and reallocate existing funds to transportation. Or we can figure out a fair way to take care of ourselves.
Our area cannot rely on more money to rain down from Washington or Atlanta. We must take matters into our own hands. So, with insufficient funds and a critical need, the state legislature created a mechanism for voters to decide if additional revenue is warranted. They ruled out increasing the gas tax by 25 cents in favor of a 1 cent transportation sales tax. A simple, broad, and fair source of funding was preferred to higher income or property taxes. Herman Cain calls this the "Transportation FAIR Tax". Also, in a nod to ‘local control’, the projects were publicly determined by a local committee representing Richmond Hill, Pembroke and Bryan County (not the Georgia DOT). If passed within Bryan County, all funding stays here. None of it goes to Atlanta or grows the bureaucracy.
It will be accountable to a citizens’ committee and, if it works, we can continue it in five years. If it doesn’t, we can defeat it.
The Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce and the North Bryan County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors encourages Bryan County voters to vote yes on TSPLOST on Tuesday (early voting continues through Friday) because we believe in taxes that are fair, broad and efficiently used.
RHBC Chamber chairman, and
North Bryan County