Campaign Begins To Push Transportation Sales Tax

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ATLANTA,None - A multi-million dollar marketing plan is in the works to promote the proposed 1-cent special local option sales tax for transportation in Georgia, and it will be run much like a political campaign, Channel 2 Action News has learned.

"The candidate is the project list," said Paul Bennecke with Red Clay Strategies. Local citizens and private businesses who want the tax passed hired Bennecke as a consultant.

"This (tax) will create thousands of jobs," Bennecke said. "The economic impact is great. Three times greater than what the 1996 Olympics were for the city of Atlanta.”

The tax will be on the ballot in July 2012 and includes the potential for $7 billion in transportation projects that a roundtable will present October. Residents in 10 metro Atlanta counties will be able to see that list before they cast their vote.

Bennecke said the proposed marketing campaign will use a lot of different methods to reach voters.

"We'll have to use TV, cable, radio, mail, phones, a large grass-roots effort going door-to-door, phone banks, postcard writing, a lot of interactive ways with social media - Facebook and Twitter," Bennecke said. No taxpayer money is being used for the campaign.

"We are going to raise the money from the corporate community, from the philanthropic community," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Those groups already have created two organizations. One is set up specifically to educate voters; the second will specifically advocate votes.

"This is going to be a tough sell," said Sam Williams with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. "This is not the time for people who want to say, ‘Yes, I want to pay another penny of sales tax.’ We're really going to have to convince people that this is the right thing to do."

There already plenty of people who aren't convinced.

"In this economy, no one wants their taxes raised," said Debbie Dooley, state coordinator for the Georgia Tea Party Patriots. "Even if it's a cent, that's still a difference. It's a matter of principle."

Dooley said the Georgia Tea Party Patriots agree metro Atlanta has a huge transportation problem, but there are other options to fix it. The group is suggesting tax breaks for corporations who allow telecommuting, smart red lights to improve traffic flow, and more toll roads.

The group quietly is organizing its own marketing campaign against the transportation tax and plans to use Facebook, Twitter and some radio advertisements.

"We're taking our message to the people. We're going to educate the people," said Dooley. "I will match power of the people any day to millions and millions of dollars spent on a marketing campaign by the proponents."

"A campaign always envisions an opposition," said Bennecke. "So we'll be prepared once that happens."


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