Voters here appeared to reject a referendum Tuesday to increase their sales taxes by a penny to raise billions of dollars for roads and mass transit, a proposal that had been strongly backed by local companies and political leaders from both parties.

As of midnight, with 87% of precincts reporting, the referendum was failing, with 63% voting against it and 37% voting for it, according to the Associated Press.

Political and business leaders conceived the referendum—for a tax of one cent on the dollar, in addition to any other taxes in a given county—several years ago and the proposal made it through the state legislature in 2010.

They estimated the tax would raise $8.5 billion in the next decade for projects they said were needed to help Atlanta repair its battered economy and reduce the region’s notorious traffic congestion.

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