Governor, mayor: "We don't have time to wait" over TSPLOST vote

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ATLANTA - Polls across metro Atlanta area are set to open Tuesday morning as voters decide the controversial 1-percent transportation sales tax.

Residents from 10 counties will vote yes or no on a long list of projects that will cost $8 billion over the next 10 years.

This is an issue that has united Georgia's Republican governor and Atlanta's Democratic mayor.

For the first time, they sat down together to talk to Channel 2's Justin Farmer. Each one took a position that puts their political careers on the line.

"It's not a Republican issue. It's not a Democratic issue. It's a Georgia issue. It's what's good for the people of this state and what's good for the future of our state," Gov. Nathan Deal told Farmer.

They have different backgrounds and different ideologies, which is why Farmer said he wanted to sit down with these men together, to carefully examine how they've come together on this issue.

"It comes up, as the mayor indicated, in every discussion that we have as we attempt to attract businesses and jobs," Deal said.

"I believe we would generate somewhere between 50,000 to 75,000 jobs," Mayor Kasim Reed said.

The mayor told Farmer that was a conservative estimate. A third-party study says 200,000 jobs would be created.

"Gov. Deal, one could argue that this is politically risky for you. A Republican governor saying, let's have a tax?" Farmer asked Deal

"My responsibility as governor of this state is to do everything I can to make quality of life for our present population as well as the future population as good as it can possibly be," Deal responded.

"Mayor Reed, what do you say to those folks in DeKalb and Fulton, you're going to hit me twice with that penny already spending for MARTA?" Farmer asked Reed.

"This is what I'd say to folks: You're being hit harder by not having access to quality jobs. If you're African-American, we're already having an unemployment rate that's 8½. If you're African-American, your unemployment is 10 or 11 percent. We can't wait until 2017, 2018 to get back the job growth," Reed said

Farmer said so much of Monday's interview was politically rare, including each man saying this is personal and their willingness to support a tax question that's been losing in the polls.

"We try to do what we think is right. I certainly believe on a personal level, this is the right thing to do. We don't have the time to wait for other suggestions," Deal said.

The latest poll numbers have those in favor of the transportation tax about 3 points behind. But, the governor and mayor said they believe turnout will be on their side and will win.

 

Opponents hit the streets against TSPLOST referendum

 

Opponents of the TSPLOST credit their momentum with a strong grassroots effort that has brought unusual groups together to defeat the tax.

Channel 2's Lori Geary talked to those opponents Monday who told her they may not have the money -- but they have the truth on their side.

"They're trying to get into your pockets," State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, told Geary.

Fort has been one of the most outspoken opponents on the one-percent transportation sales tax.

Fort and other TSPLOST opponents met MARTA riders at the Five Points station trying to convince them to vote no on the sales tax.

"I think it's going to hurt people, particularly in this economy, to go from 8 to 9 percent in the city of Atlanta," Fort said.

Other opponents gathered at the state Capitol.

"The lawyers call it a sales tax. We call it a meds and bread tax," Jack Straver from the Transportation Leadership Coalition said.

The groups touted their grassroots effort, going up against a business community that has poured millions into a pro-TSPLOST campaign.

"They're losing at the polls and the reason is they only have $8 million. We have the truth," Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown

The truth, they say, is the $8 billion list of 157 projects will do little to ease congestion. Instead, they say, it will place more of a tax burden on those with fixed incomes who will pay more for necessities like food and over the counter medications.

The opponents pointed the finger at Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

"Mayor Reed is the mayor of the city of Atlanta. He is not the king of the 10 county Atlanta region," Brown said. "Mayor Reed manipulated the project list to his advantage. Instead of looking out for the people in south DeKalb who would be the most likely to use the transit, he awarded himself an economic belt line project."

Just as on the supporters' side, Geary said she has seen some unusual alliances with the opponents.

The tea party has joined forces with the Sierra Club and the NAACP to oppose the tax, just to name a few.

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