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Poll results: Readers against T-SPLOST
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If the vote was held today would you vote in favor of T-SPLOST?
Yes - 29 percent (44 votes)
No - 71 percent (107 votes)

Next Question:
Voters may soon have the chance to decide whether Newton County remains a dry county.

If the Newton County Board of Commissioners puts the issue to a public vote on the November 2012 election ballot, will you vote for or against alcohol by the drink? (*Alcohol by the drink refers only to on-premise sales at restaurants; county officials have previously said a future alcohol ordinance would be designed to prevent the formation of bars.)

Vote on our poll at and comment on Facebook; see the results next Sunday.

T-SPLOST advocates appear to be facing an uphill battle and will have to change voters' minds if they want to see the transportation-only SPLOST pass during the July 2012 primary.

Based on The News' weekly online, unscientific poll, 71 percent of respondents oppose the T-SPLOST (results include 12 votes cast in a Facebook poll). However, it appears many residents remain uncertain, as vote totals were comparatively low and not a single voter left a comment on our Facebook page explaining his views.

The T-SPLOST is in a interesting position. Residents loathe adding taxes, particularly during an economic downtown; however, SPLOSTs have historically faired well in Georgia and continue to do so. They're the most transparent form of tax because they have a specific list of projects attached to them.

Residents and officials are also well aware of Georgia's transportation woes, which could lend support to the transportation sales tax initiative. Then again, the T-SPLOST is a regional project list, making it more complicated than a traditional single-county SPLOST.

The state is divided into 12 regions for purposes of the T-SPLOST; each region will vote independently on its own project list. If passed, the 1 percent sales tax will be collected for 10 years; the collection period may be shorter if total project collections are achieved in fewer years.

Newton County falls into the Northeast Georgia Region along with Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties.

Based on the state's revenue projection - which assumes annualized growth of 5.8 percent in sales tax revenues - the 12-county Northeast region will collect a total of $987.9 million over 10 years.

The Northeast Georgia list contains 66 projects at a total projected cost of $1.1 billion; however only $741 million of that would come from T-SPLOST.

Jackson County Chairman Hunter Bicknell, who also serves as the chairman of the Northeast Georgia regional T-SPLOST committee, said the state is contributing a major portion of the cost on several projects, allowing local governments to leverage T-SPLOST funds.

He said some local governments are also providing other local funds and that the scope of some projects has been reduced.

The remaining 25 percent of collections - $247 million - will be split among the 12 counties to be used by them for local projects of choice.

Newton County has $140.4 million in direct projects, and Chairman Kathy Morgan said she expects the county will receive an additional $20 million from T-SPLOST in discretionary spending.

Based on the state's revenue projections, Newton County is expected to contribute more than $136.6 million in sales tax revenue during the 10-year T-SPLOST period. (Newton will likely contribute more because it will grow more quickly than other counties.)

Based on those numbers, Newton would receive $23.8 million more than it would contribute to T-SPLOST.

The T-SPLOST law (Transportation Investment Act, H.B. 277) penalizes regions that don't pass T-SPLOST.

If a region passes T-SPLOST, then those counties only have to provide a 10 percent local match for all other state and federal projects not included on the T-SPLOST list.

If a region doesn't pass T-SPLOST, then counties have to provide a 30 percent local match, according to the text of the law.

Local governments either have to add the 1 percent sales tax or be on hook for contributing more local money for future road projects.