A little substance made its way into the recent Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Pre-Legislative Breakfast. Along the way, there also was a look into how supporters of next year’s transportation sales tax referendum hope to persuade voters.
Typically, the chamber pre- and post-legislative meetings bring in the local delegation to talk about the recent or upcoming sessions, and feature a higher-profile politician to discuss statewide issues.
Unfortunately, most of the officials spend their time patting each other on the back or currying support for their next election. Depth or substance is a rarity.
Last Thursday’s session, however, had both.
Chris Cummiskey is the commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Economic Development. He didn’t disappoint, laying out plans for economic progress that mostly involve keeping government out of the way of private enterprise.
But Cummiskey, along with state Rep. Ben Harbin, also set out the primary theme for TSPLOST supporters – and the timing is fortuitous.
Just last week, South Carolina officials agreed not to oppose plans to deepen the harbor in Savannah, a project that will allow larger ships coming through the expanded Panama Canal to bring more cargo.
Once that cargo arrives, Georgia will need the transportation infrastructure to distribute it. Thus, Cummiskey argues, passage of TSPLOST is a vital component for the future economic development of the state.
What’s more, he contends, because the tax is regional, if one region votes it down, neighboring regions will hold a competitive advantage. Those are strong incentives for voters to consider.
Clearly, it will take a lot more than a couple of speeches on the rubber-chicken circuit to persuade voters to raise taxes on themselves. But at least someone is making an effort.