For Capt. Alec Fraser, former president of Turner Properties and a retired Navy officer, the July 31 Regional Transportation Referendum is all about jobs. Fraser spoke to the Smyrna Rotary Club on behalf of the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network Tuesday.
“Look at it by the jobs of the region,” he said. “Now how many people in Cobb work outside of Cobb? Or how many people who live outside of Cobb come in to work in Cobb? It’s the regional economic development and if we continue in America, much less Cobb or metro Atlanta, to look only at what’s in it for me rather than the overall good, we’re not going to get anywhere. If we’re just going to say what’s in it for Cobb, I say jobs are in it for Cobb. They may not be in Cobb County but they are in the metro area.”
Fraser cited two Texas Trasnportation Institute studies; one said the the metro region loses about $115 million in revenue annually because of time lost to transportation delays and another that claimed Atlanta is ninth worst for congestion in the country. Fraser also noted seven of the worst bottlenecks in the United States are in metro Atlanta, including I-285 at I-75/Windy Hill Road. He said he supports the one-cent sales tax collected over 10 years to complete a list of 157 transportation projects because to him it’s fair.
“This tax doesn’t bother me because it’s a consumption tax,” he said. “It’s a fair tax because it’s on consumption. But one tax for 10 years and $8.5 billion are raised. Remember we had $3.5 million for the Olympics.”
If approved by voters in July, 85 percent of the revenue collected from the one-cent sales tax over the 10 years would be used to complete a list of 157 approved transportation improvement projects. The other 15 percent would be distributed to local governments. If legislators wished to extend the tax beyond the 10-year-period, there would need to be another referendum.
Fraser said that the Georgia Department of Transportation currently funds transportation improvements from revenue generated by the state’s fuel tax. However, revenues have been down in recent years because people drive less in an a depressed economy and because vehicles are more fuel efficient.
“What comes out of this is GDOT gets about $1.1 billion, 1.2 billion for their annual spending,” he said. “Now it’s down to $900 million. In other words we’re decreasing the amount of taxes that we pay. As a result we’re decreasing the amount of money to spend on transportation.”
Some Rotarians were skeptical. One man asked how citizens could trust the government to implement $8 billion in transportation improvements. Fraser replied that the money could only be used for the approved projects.
“Politicians can’t take the money,” he said. “It is for those projects. And the one-cent sunsets in 10 years and the voters have to approve it if they ever want to extend it. It’s not like the Georgia 400 toll both where just by executive veto they’re told they can keep it open.”
An interactive map featuring details about each of the 157 transportation improvements is featured on the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network's website.