Visit our special election section for complete coverage of the 2012 primaries, HERE.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday he is committed to finding a solution to Atlanta's traffic woes, but with Tuesday's defeat of a sales tax referendum for funding, the projects will have to be reprioritized.
"The voters of Georgia have spoken, and I will continue to do what I have done since I became governor: Work in consultation with state transportation leaders, legislators and local officials to establish our priority projects. There will be belt-tightening," said Deal, who publicly supported the one-percent tax that could have brought $8.5 billion in funding over 10 years in metro Atlanta. "It's certainly disappointing that we won't have the resources to accomplish all the projects needed to get Georgians moving quicker, but it does force state officials, including myself, to focus all our attention on our most pressing needs."
Deal said transportation projects will have to be divided into a "need to do" list, instead of a "want to do" list," which could mean projects like the $600 million rebuild of the Ga. Highway 400, Interstate 285 interchange could be take years to fund, especially since not only are state budgets tight but federal funding is tough to find.
Transit could fare worse, he said, adding that the vote "slams the door" on expansion to the rail system in Atlanta.
"Neither I nor the Legislature has much of an appetite for new investments until there are significant reforms in how MARTA operates," he said.
Gwinnett's Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who did not take a side in the tax debate, said the county would look for ways to get its projects moving forward.
"We have a good Transportation Plan, and we will continue to find ways to fund it," she said. "I anticipate that transportation projects will represent a large portion of the proposed uses for the next Gwinnett SPLOST referendum. In the meantime, we will complete delivery of transportation projects currently funded."
Deal said the three regions where the transportation sales tax was approved by voters -- the Columbus, Augusta and Vidalia areas -- will "see great returns on their investment." He pointed out that Gwinnett and other others will have to provide more in local match funds to state projects due to the vote.
"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," he 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."
Debbie Dooley, one of the leaders of a coalition of tax foes, said leaders need to look at short- and long-term solutions to the issue.
She said the Legislature should consider a proposal that allows counties to decide which neighbors to partner with in transportation, and in the meantime, some money should be shifted. For example, the Dacula woman said a percentage of gas taxes currently allocated to the state general fund could give $175 million a year for road projects if it were reallocated to transportation.