Kay Pippin, Henry Chamber of Commerce President
McDONOUGH — A prominent supporter of a regional transportation tax proposal is calling views from a group of county commission candidates “shortsighted.”
Henry Chamber of Commerce President, Kay Pippin, said some who are seeking seats on the Henry County Commission have “become a tad shortsighted” in their opposition the Transportation - Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) referendum, which will be voted on in the July 31 primary.
“While they may catch a few votes here and there by coming out against the ... transportation referendum, what their opposition really means is that they are okay with not fixing our suffocating traffic,” Pippin said Friday.
Pippin’s comments came in response to assertions made by county commission hopefuls, during a forum this week, at which their views on the T-SPLOST referendum were sought.
Generally, the candidates vying for three commission posts in the Republican primary said they were against the T-SPLOST, because they were more concerned about support for Henry County’s local SPLOST, which is due for a vote in 2013.
The T-SPLOST referendum advocates a 1-cent sales tax to fund $6.14 billion in infrastructure projects, over 10 years, for a 10-county area that includes Henry County.
“There are seven Henry County projects that will be funded through this plan, and all seven address some of our biggest congestion choke points,” Pippin continued. “But what you may not know is how long it will take those projects to get done if the naysayers get their way.
“For example, the interchange at I-75 and Bill Gardner Parkway in Locust Grove, where more than 4 million visitors shop at Tanger Outlet Center each year, is in Phase I of the referendum, meaning it will be one of the first projects funded,” said Pippin. “A ‘no’ vote on July 31 means rebuilding that interchange to handle the increasing traffic congestion that will happen after 2040. That’s right, an estimated 32 years later, the state will finally get around to fixing that interchange, that is provided a funding source can be identified since currently there is no identified funding source,” Pippin said.
The widening of Keys Ferry Road, in McDonough, from Lemon Street to Bethany Road, would happen 28 years later, the business leader cautioned.
“On average, across the metro Atlanta region, each of the 157 projects will be delayed an average of 13 years if the referendum fails,” Pippin added. “The key question that we all have to answer is, are we okay with that? We have always received the scraps from Metro Atlanta’s table when it comes to transportation funding. Finally, we had a chance to take our highest priority projects to a regional roundtable and insist on equitable funding for Henry County. The only thing a ‘no’ vote ensures is that we will continue to get scraps, while other areas reap the benefits of economic development opportunities.
“The candidates tout support of a local SPLOST over the regional SPLOST to address our problems,” the Chamber president said. “The truth is, Henry County’s current one-penny SPLOST was projected to raise $180 million, but it is doubtful it will reach that by the end of its six-year life span that expires in March 2014. Doesn’t it make more sense to be able to count on $278 million from the July 31 referendum, regardless of sales tax collections in Henry County, than to fear a vote that is one year away? Let’s vote yes on July 31, 2012, get the funding for our major transportation projects, and perhaps consider using a larger portion of our next local SPLOST to fund capital projects like senior centers, performing arts/civic center, fire and police stations, etc.,” Pippin urged.
“The candidates suggest ‘another source of funding’ to fix Metro Atlanta’s and Henry County’s transportation problems other than a regional one-cent sales tax ...” she said. “What they don’t tell you is the only other source is to increase the gas tax and that it would take a 26-cents increase per gallon of gas to raise the amount of money the one-cent SPLOST tax will raise. Voters, are you okay with that?
“Sometimes you have to put short-term political gain aside and think about what is best for our future,” said Pippin. “This vote, along with the pending projects on I-75 in Henry County, will finally untie some of our most congested corridors,” she stressed.
Pippin urged residents to vote for returning $278 million of the $279 million in T-SPLOST funds Henry County will contribute over the 10-year life of the tax.
“Vote yes to untie our traffic congestion and assure current businesses will stay here and new ones will bring more jobs to our community,” she urged. “Vote yes to prepare for the doubling of Henry County’s population by 2040. Vote yes to keep our current Xpress bus service that offers commuters an alternative to driving and keeps over 700 cars a day off I-75. Vote yes to prepare for the increased commercial traffic that’s coming our way with the deepening of the ports in Savannah.
“Let’s get these projects done sooner, than later, so we can show economic development prospects that we have a plan for our future,” said the chamber’s president.