July 10, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
Georgia residents will vote July 31 on a proposed 1-percent regional sales tax to fund transportation projects, including $126 million for the state’s airports.
AOPA is urging pilots in Georgia to vote in favor of the referendum that would provide funds for 38 projects at 22 airports starting next spring, enabling improvements to aviation facilities and infrastructure in the state, which has one of the lowest levels of state aviation funding.
“With the state’s Airport Aid Program funding level at $1.6 million in 2011, this referendum will allow critical infrastructure projects that may otherwise not have an alternative source of funding to go forward,” said AOPA Southern Regional Manager Bob Minter. “These projects are essential for continued economic development throughout the state.”
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the referendum was set on passage of the Transportation Investment Act of 2010. The proposed 1-percent sales tax was projected by economists to raise a total of $18.67 billion over the 10-year life of the tax as a source of funds for transportation initiatives in 12 regions of the state.
The referendum contains a provision to return 25 percent of the funds raised in each region to the local area for transportation projects not included on the final project list. The percentage for the Atlanta region is 15 percent. Voting by region could result in passage in some and rejection in others, GDOT said.
Georgia, despite major population growth in the last 20 years, spends less per capita on transportation than most states – but under state law, federal funds and motor-fuel tax revenues may only be used for roads and bridges, GDOT said.
Passage in all 12 regions of the state would double GDOT’s “regular work program,” the agency said. An oversight provision would establish a citizen review panel to track program progress in each region that approves the referendum.
Minter, who has worked closely with the Georgia General Assembly, state aviation program officials, Georgia Airports Association, and general aviation airports to secure funding for airport repairs and renovations, urged pilots to get out and vote.
With Georgia airport funding “cut to the bone in recent years,” pilots should support the measure and make sure that their fellow pilots know about the July 31 vote and the opportunity it provides to revitalize aviation infrastructure and boost the aviation economy, he said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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