Chamber endorses transit tax
By MEGHAN PITTMAN
The Brunswick News
Directors of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce voted Tuesday to back a sales tax they say will help the community grow.
The board voted to endorse a 1 percent state sales tax for transportation - known as the Transportation Investment Act - after last year declining to take a position on an unrelated local Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. That tax failed in a countywide referendum in November.
The transportation sales tax would be collected for 10 years to fund transportation projects in 10 regions across the state. Glynn County is in a region stretching from Camden County on the south to Chatham County on the north. Passage of the tax would increase the sales tax in Glynn County to 7 percent.
"We don't need to think of this as a penny sales tax," Mason Waters, chamber vice president of government affairs, said Tuesday.
"It's an economic development tool. That will be our biggest bargain chip to attract businesses and create jobs."
Waters noted that other chambers of commerce in the state and in the 12-county coastal region, of which Glynn County is a part, have already moved to support the tax.
Each county will ask voters to consider the tax in a countywide and regional referendum in a special election July 31.
Even if Glynn County voters reject the tax, consumers will have to pay it if a majority of voters in the majority of other counties in the region approve it.
Of 75 projects for the coastal region, Glynn County will receive funding for 13, for a total of $203 million.
The tax will also generate another $38 million in discretionary funds for Brunswick and the county to use for their own projects.
Officials estimate that the tax will yield more $2 billion for the region during the decade it would be on the books and will generate $3.15 million for Glynn County and $650,000 for Brunswick annually.
An important factor moving forward is the list of projects that the city and county will create to be funded by the local portion of the tax.
County Commission Chairman Richard Strickland said the city and county had already made a list of projects to be funded by the local portion of the tax, giving voters further incentive to support it in July.
"We've got the list of projects and so has the city," Strickland said. "We know we need to have that to help (gain support)."
Chamber support of the tax follows a vote by the Glynn County Republican Party to oppose it.