The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 10th

Transit tax up for vote in Orange County

Today, Orange County voters will help decide the future of transit in the area.

In addition to the presidential and statewide candidates on the ballot, a half-cent sales tax referendum to fund expanded transit services is also being put to a vote.

If passed, the referendum would support enhanced bus services, an Amtrak rail station in Hillsborough and the construction of a 17.3 mile light rail system connecting UNC Hospitals to East Durham.

In recent weeks, several local organizations have spoken out, choosing to endorse or oppose the tax.

Alliance for Historic Hillsborough

The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough is one organization that has endorsed the sales tax increase.

Sarah DeGennaro, the alliance’s acting executive director, said the increase would promote tourism by bringing more people to the area via the light rail.

DeGennaro also said she thinks the transit initiative would bring jobs to Hillsborough and thus promote economic development.

The tax would also provide environmental benefits and stable transportation, she said.

By supporting the referendum, DeGennaro said the organization is fulfilling its mission of increasing tourism in Hillsborough.

“You can’t just support something — you must invest in it,” she said.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce has also announced its support of the referendum.

“The Chamber’s board unanimously endorsed the transit referendum because it’s good for our economy, good for our community, and good for our region,” said Barry Leffler, chairman of the chamber, in a press release.

The investment is necessary in order to stay competitive in recruiting businesses and employers, Leffler said in the release.

Other organizations that have endorsed the referendum include the Orange County Democratic Party, the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club, the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties, and the Regional Transportation Alliance.

Orange County Republican Party

The Orange County Republican Party is one of the only groups to come out in opposition to the referendum.

Chairman Bob Randall said the group’s members do not support the tax increase because they believe it will deter businesses from moving into the area.

“Our property tax is already among the highest in the state, and our sales tax is rising too,” he said.

Though the organization supports the bus system, Randall said it does not support the light rail system because it would be too expensive.

“The referendum is dependent on federal funds. Our country is $16 trillion in debt and we don’t need to be adding to it,” Randall said.

Randall also said he opposes the light rail because it does not service Raleigh-Durham International Airport and he does not think it will reduce traffic congestion or pollution.

Orange County Voice, an organization representing rural residents of the county, also opposes the referendum.

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