CONYERS -- Proponents of the special purpose local option sales tax for transportation say that a new plan is needed to address transportation issues following failure of the T-SPLOST referendum on Tuesday.
The T-SPLOST for the Atlanta region was a "no go" in all 10 counties in the region, including Rockdale, where the 10-year 1 percent sales tax for transportation was rejected by 69.6 percent of the voters in Tuesday's primary elections.
According to the Secretary of State's office, T-SPLOST got its biggest no in the region in Cherokee County, where more than 79 percent of voters were opposed. The margin was closer in both Fulton and DeKalb counties, where 51.8 percent and 51.3 percent of voters, respectively, voted against the referendum. Other county results were Clayton County, 53.5 percent no; Cobb County, 68.8 percent no; Douglas, 67.9 percent no; Fayette County, 76.4 percent no; Gwinnett County, 70.8 percent no; and Henry County, 71.3 percent no.
The referendum fared little better throughout the state, losing in nine of the 12 regions that voted on the tax.
The Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce had taken a position in favor of the T-SPLOST. On Thursday, President Fred Boscarino said in a statement that leaders will have to come up with another plan for transportation improvements.
"There is no question as to the need for traffic improvements in the Atlanta region," Boscarino said. "Lots of them. We have crying needs here in Rockdale County. The issue was how the voters want to pay for the improvements, and the question of trust of those who will spend the money for the next 10 years. This Chamber sees the need for improvements clearly, and we look forward to working with elected and business leaders to develop a plan that will move us in the right direction."
Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden, who had also supported the transportation tax, said he was not surprised by the results of the referendum based on sentiment prior to the election.
"I anticipated that -- the citizens had spoken across the region and in all 10 counties," Oden said Wednesday. "I think other regions passed it, so it is what it is. I'm ready to continue to move forward. My goal will continue to be to drive down our 10 percent unemployment and continue to develop opportunities for economic development and continue to push our community to get job ready."
Don Meyer, a local businessman and vocal opponent of the T-SPLOST, said he supports the idea of a sales tax for transportation but could not support the way in which T-SPLOST was planned and promoted. He said more statesman-like leadership without personal or political agendas was needed to get the referendum passed.
"Anybody who is against just the tax issue is not looking at the whole problem," Meyer said. "We have created a society in America and a civilization that is demanding two things, and our future is going to demand two things -- better utilization of our dollars and smarter leadership in how to utilize those few dollars that we are going to have available in the future."
Meyer said he rallied against "the orchestration and the manipulation" in the way T-SPLOST was presented to voters.
"It's a grand idea; it's an important idea," he said. "There was a lot of forethought and leadership in that, but somewhere along the line someone gave in and compromised their values in the delivery mechanism."
T-SPLOST critics derided the proposal as an unfair tax on the poor that wouldn't deal with the problems of sprawl. Tuesday's vote "shows the power of the people," said Debbie Dooley, Georgia Tea Party Patriots state coordinator and an outspoken opponent of the measure.
"They ran a top-down, PR campaign, whereas we ran a bottom-up, true grassroots political campaign," Dooley said Tuesday. "The people are sending a message, and elected officials would do well to take heed: You aren't getting any more of our tax dollars until you can show you're responsible and can be trusted with the money you have now."
Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday that he remains committed to improving transportation in Georgia and will continue to work with state transportation officials, legislators and local officials to prioritize projects that are needed.
"As governor, I aim to make Georgia the No. 1 place in the nation to do business and improving our transportation infrastructure is a major part of that effort," Deal said. "(Tuesday's) vote wasn't an end of the discussion; it's a transition point. We have much to do, and I'll work with state and local officials to direct our limited resources to the most important projects."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.