Georgia's transportation department has officially moved on from metro Atlanta's rejection of a $7 billion transportation sales tax referendum, turning instead to three other regions that voted yes to pay for improved local roads and highways.
State officials for the first time Wednesday held an industry briefing on the hundreds of projects that will be funded by the sales tax in Augusta, Columbus and a collection of counties in south-central Georgia. Those communities were the only three of 12 regions across the state that passed the one-cent sales tax in the July 31 primary.
"Post-July 31st success," said Russell McMurry, the state Department of Transportation's engineering director, putting a positive spin on the votes by saying some people think the three regions, which stretch U-shaped across the heart of Georgia, resemble a smiley-face.
The tax is expected to raise $1.8 billion over the next 10 years for the three regions. It is expected to be a boon to the state's beleaguered paving industry, which hadmore than 100 people representing more than 50 companies at the briefing to learn how the projects would be handled.
Officials will start to collect the tax Jan. 1, with proceeds available for spending starting in March.
Also during Wednesday's committee meetings, DOT board members were told the department could lose a combined $700,000 under proposed cuts for the rest of fiscal 2013, which ends June 30, and for fiscal 2014. State spending plans are under review by Gov. Nathan Deal, who asked agencies to suggest trims as he eyes Georgia's still-sluggish economy.
The full board meets Thursday for its regular meeting in Atlanta.
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