Higher matching fees kicking in for counties that rejected TSPLOST

One of the less-discussed elements of last summer’s TSPLOST was the provision that would increase the amount that local governments would have to ante up to receive certain road improvement grants from the state.

The local match is generally just 10 percent — a number so low that some local governments accepted the state’s 90 percent portion without clearly prioritizing local needs.

The handful of Georgia regions that voted in favor of TSPLOST — the one percent sales tax for transportation infrastructure — will continue only having to come up with that 10 percent grant. But regions like the one here on the coast that includes Savannah and Brunswick will have to pay 30 percent.

It’s a sensible policy. The higher match forces local governments to be more deliberative and accountable. It enforces a basic conservative principle of local responsibility in the generally more conservative regions that rejected TSPLOST. And it continues a discounted rate in areas where citizens have shouldered higher sales tax rates.

But there had been a lot of buzz last summer about the Georgia legislature repealing that particular TSPLOST provision.

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. From the Savannah Morning News’ TSPLOST rejection means higher grant match requirements for Chatham, Savannah:

Repealing the penalty provision is one of the county commission’s legislative priorities this year, but state Sen. Buddy Carter said a repeal is not likely. The move would probably not sit well with the regions that did approve the tax, Carter said.

The new law allows matching funds to be credited to a broader range of expenses related to the projects, thus mitigating to some degree the impact on local government budgets, but the new policies should force municipalities to use more scrutiny when allocating scarcer and scarcer transportation funding dollars.