TIA revenue estimates trimmed

17 Jun

Georgia’s fiscal economist announced this week that the Atlanta region should expect the Transportation Investment Act to generate less revenue than originally estimated for regional projects.

The one-percent sales tax that the TIA would put in place was previously expected to generate about $8 billion over the ten years for which it’s authorized, if voters approve it next year.

But Kenneth Heaghney, who prepared the estimates for the state, said that the calculations had to be adjusted to account for “a slightly worse outlook for the economy, as well as having time to do more exact work for this year’s projections,” the AJC reported.

The figure released this week was $8.5 billion – in 2011 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, the value is expected be reduced to about $7.2 billion. But only 85 percent of TIA-generated revenue will be available to spend on projects described as “regionally significant.”  The rest is allocated for local projects in the cities and counties in which it was raised. Shaving off that 15 percent leaves $6.14 billion for funding regional projects.

 Original and adjusted revenue estimates for all 12 Georgia regions are here (PDF).

This news means even more re-calibration and re-calculation for the Atlanta Regional Roundtable tasked with putting together a list of useful, affordable transit projects to go before the voters next year.

The “unconstrained list,” or “wish list” already far exceeds the original, more optimistic estimates that the one percent tax was expected to generate. The roundtable’s job is to reduce that list to one consisting of projects that the projected revenues can pay for. Now another $235 million worth of projects will have to be jettisoned.

But public officials have had to get used to getting more mileage out of less money lately.  Asked whether having less money to divvy up among projects would make the new tax a tougher sell, Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, who heads the roundtable for the Atlanta region told the AJC “I don’t think so. I mean it’s going to be hard enough,” and said, laughing “What’s a billion dollars among friends?”

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