Leaders make final push for transportation tax



ATLANTA - State leaders are making a last-ditch effort to pass the one-percent transportation tax in Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal and Mayor Kasim Reed were among the people who gathered downtown at the Capitol to round up support for the tax, which metro Atlanta residents will vote on Tuesday.

Channel 2's Carol Sbarge covered the event, where Deal called passing the referendum a tough, but needed fight to bring in jobs and reduce traffic. Supporters expect the tax would raise approximately seven and a half billion dollars over 10 years and pay for 157 designated projects in the 10-county metro region.

Sbarge said opponents were planning events Monday to urge people to vote against the proposed tax.

This weekend brought a big display of political power at Centennial Park, where supporters of the tax gathered in hopes of garnering more backers.

About 200 supporters rallied under Saturday's hot sun, aiming their message at voters like Cobb County resident Dolph Woods, who said he's fed up with the metro area's notorious traffic.

"It's congested, it's time-consuming and you spend a lot of time on the road and we can use some improvement," Woods told Channel 2's Tony Thomas.

Leading the rally was a team of city and federal power brokers, all of whom said Atlanta needs to pass the one-cent sales tax.

"This is a call of our generation. This is our moment. This is our time to advance Atlanta," DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis told the crowd.

Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson also joined the event.

"I am feeling good. It's going to be too close to call is what everyone says, but I think the people of Atlanta know how to make the right decision," Johnson said.

Earlier, Channel 2's Erica Byfield caught up with opponents of the tax, who are hoping for a different outcome.

While some opponents agree that traffic relief should be a priority, they said the approved projects are wasteful and won't solve enough of the traffic woes.

The opponents took their message door to door, passing out flyers, shirts and signs.

"The TSPLOST (tax) is unfair and it does not pass the fairness test," said State Senator Vincent Fort, who led the initiative.

Besides his concerns that the tax won't do enough to improve gridlock, the senator also said the people he represents would be double-taxed.

"The people that I represent in Atlanta and in DeKalb will be paying a two-percent transportation tax, including the one-percent Marta tax they already pay," Fort said.

Fort, meanwhile, said he is confident his ground campaign will help change some minds before July 31.

"We know we are David going against Goliath, but as the Bible said, we have five smooth stones and we are going to use every one between now and election day to beat this," Fort said, before noting his desire for city leaders to form what he called a better solution to ease traffic in metro Atlanta.

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