WARNER ROBINS -- A group of residents against a proposed regional transportation tax met Wednesday to discuss a plan of action to spread information about the one-cent sales tax.
The group, Citizens Against T-SPLOST, or CATS, is headed by former Houston County Commission Chairman Ned Sanders.
Considering these economic conditions, we think thats a little bit on the oppressive side, Sanders said of the transportation special purpose local option sales tax, which would raise Houston Countys sales tax to 8 percent.
The proposed T-SPLOST, which voters will decide on July 31, would fund regional transportation projects that fuel taxes will no longer cover.
Houston County is part of an 11-county Middle Georgia region, which includes Bibb and nine smaller counties. The outcome will be decided by the regional popular vote. If passed, it is expected to raise $18 billion statewide and $876 million in the Middle Georgia region.
The tax increase, which would be for 10 years, comes with a highly unreliable delivery and priority of execution of projects totally under state control, Sanders said while listing the groups strategic points of emphasis.
Instead, funds and control should lie with local leaders, whom constituents see regularly and can more easily vote out of office if they dont agree with political actions, the group agreed.
Additionally, Houston County has allocated funds to local road and transportation projects in the past.
Weve been addressing your transportation needs here in Houston County, so we dont need a statewide tax for it, Sanders said, adding that under the T-SPLOST, state officials, not local leaders would hold the control on local projects.
Suppose you dont generate enough money in 10 years to cover these projects, he said. Who decides which get deleted?
Each county is better off passing its own local tax and taking care of its own needs and supporting the local economy, Sanders said.
Raising the tax to 8 percent could put future county and city SPLOSTs in great peril of passage. When it comes time to renew those taxes, residents wont want to continue at 8 percent, he said.
State Sen. Ross Tolleson has spoken out in support of the transportation tax, saying Houston County would benefit just as much as surrounding areas that have put less money into transportation improvements.
At the end of the day, were going to keep growing, and were going to need more transportation money, Tolleson, R-Perry, said at a May Eggs & Issues event hosted by the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Sanders agreed something could be said for the transportation tax from a regional standpoint but argued the regional responsibilities rest with the state General Assembly, Department of Transportation and their sources of income.
This in effect is asking local citizens to help them fund their responsibilities, he said.
Eight people gathered for the midday meeting to discuss messaging, future meetings and the purchase of lawn signs for their campaign. The group is still in its formative stages, Sanders said.
Natalie Bassett, of Warner Robins, was a first-time attendee at the groups meeting.
Im opposed to the increase in tax, especially the longevity of it. Ten years is a really long time, especially when economies can change, Bassett said. An extra $10 out of somebodys pocket who is underemployed is a lot.
The group plans to meet again June 21 at 2 p.m., in the Flint Energies meeting room, 900 Ga. 96 in Warner Robins. The meetings are open to the public.
We want (residents) to have the full range of information, so they can make their own decision, Sanders said. Were going to recommend, of course, a vote against it.
To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 256-9751.