July 27-- In Tuesday's primary election, voters will have a chance to decide if they want to pay a one penny sales tax for the next ten years to support road projects and paving in the 17-county Heart of Georgia region including Toombs County.
Two of the three candidates running for the chairman's job on the Toombs County commission support the sales tax and the third doesn't want to comment.
Vidalia attorney Blake Tillery says it's not a county issue and fears political fallout if he takes a position.
"First of all, it's not a county issue and I'm running for the county commission. It's really a state and a region issue. I've been accused already by my opponent of seeking a higher state or federal office and I don't want to walk into his buzz saw or add fuel to his fire by commenting on that. I will say that it is a very important issue for our community and however the voters go, we'll work to implement their plans," Tillery says.
Despite his reticence, Tillery recognizes the economic impact the tax would have on Tooombs County. "We stand to gain roughly $63 million in projects and the citizens of this community and this 17-county region have to decide if they want to vote a tax on themselves. If they do want to vote a tax on themselves, then they will have those projects. If they don't, then they have that right as well. Me, as a candidate for county commission, I get one vote. I have no say in this and I don't get to administer the projects once they're done. So again, this is a state issue, not a county issue," he claims.
Former Toombs County Commission Chairman James Thompson says nobody likes taxes.
"I'm going to hold my nose and vote for it because we need the infrastructure here in Toombs County. The two main revenue-producing counties are Laurens County and Toombs County and I was apprehensive that we might not get our fair share, but if we don't vote for it, we're going to get even less. It's either pay now or pay later, and if we don't do it now, it's going to cost more in the long run," Thompson believes.
The third candidate in the race, Mac Jordan of Vidalia, says the sales tax is needed for economic development in our area.
"I see it as an investment. We're part of a 17-county region and within that region we have some of the highest unemployment in the state. If we don't pass this, I'm concerned we'll fall further behind. Most business interests in the state are promoting this as an investment in our own future and it gives us local control of our own taxes where they are spent," Jordan says.