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3 ideas Macon-Bibb officials want state representatives to support this year

The state Capitol in Atlanta.
The state Capitol in Atlanta. The Telegraph

A new sales tax referendum, passenger rail from Macon to Atlanta and a possible increase to the hotel/motel tax were among the issues top Macon leaders are asking area legislators to support this year.

With the upcoming legislative session starting in January, some members of the Macon-Bibb County Commission met Thursday with the members of the local legislative delegation. Below is a recap of some the topics broached at the meeting, including the other local option sales tax, which failed to gain any momentum during 2018’s legislative session.

OLOST

The other local option sales tax, or OLOST, has been referenced by Mayor Robert Reichert and some county commissioners as a way to provide some tax relief to property owners.

It also could become another source of revenue for a county government after two consecutive years of property taxes being raised.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert details why a he believes a new sales tax is the best method to deal with looming financial problems for the county.

A group of commissioners reiterated Thursday why they think the penny-on-the-dollar tax could help the county out financially, while also spreading more of the tax burden onto people who live outside of Bibb.

State law requires that an OLOST results in a 100 percent “rollback” of property taxes based on the amount of revenue the sales tax generates. One of the points of contention for some legislators earlier this year was over whether it should only be a 50 percent rollback, freeing up more revenue for county commissioners to use at their discretion.

The support of state legislators is needed to get the measure on a ballot for Macon-Bibb voters to decide its fate.

Commissioner Al Tillman said along with a rollback, possibly areas like public safety and blight remediation could benefit from OLOST revenue. That may alleviate some of the concerns from residents about how it would be used.

“I’m just asking you to allow us to put it on the ballot and go out to sell it to the public,” he said.

Hotel-motel tax

The battle over the county’s budget this summer featured debates on how much funding some entities such as the transit system, museums, and other agencies and organizations should receive.

One potential remedy is for some agencies to get a share of the money derived from the hotel-motel tax. The 7 percent tax currently goes to various tourist-related sources like The Cherry Blossom Festival and the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

County Manager Keith Moffett said Reichert wants state legislators to look into raising the tax to 8 percent, allowing Macon-Bibb commissioners more control over how hotel-motel tax revenue is used,

“We have what we refer to as outside agencies in our budget process that are asking for additional funding,” Moffett said.

Passenger rail

Reichert has long advocated for the return of passenger rail service from Macon to Atlanta.

Moffett said Thursday that the mayor would like midstate legislators to continue that effort. Regular passenger service from Middle Georgia to the state’s capital ended in 1971.

There have been questions from state leaders such as Gov. Nathan Deal, whose final term ends in a few weeks, about the financial viability of restarting the service.

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