The state of Georgia has a money raising plan based on only one cent on the primary election ballot to be held on July 31, 2012. A regionally based transportation referendum is on the ballot. The region being impacted includes the City of Atlanta and Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties. It is a one penny tax sales tax specifically targeted to spend on the transportation system. It has ten-year duration. A yes-vote to the referendum would see the accumulation of about $8.5 billion to be used exclusively for transportation improvement projects. The construction work will mean some hassles and taking detours during the improvements but overall the money will be well spent.
Some voters like myself, have already decided whether they want to vote Yes or No. The Yes voters stand by their decision saying that the new tax will be a gentle way to bring jobs into Georgia and to boost our local economies. The No voters are fearful that one more tax will lead to an avalanche of new taxes. They feel that there are no guarantees that jobs will be created, transportation will improve or that quality of life will be better in the Atlanta region. There are many undecided voters still sitting on the fence and they could be the group that sways the vote to yes or no. This essay will review why, when all the pros and cons are considered, a Yes vote is better than a No vote is better for the state of Georgia.
A yes vote will improve the Georgia transportation system, put highway construction workers back on the job, and the money will help jumpstart Georgia’s economy. The arguments against a yes vote are vague, fearful and unconvincing.
There are ten major points that have been offered to convince people to vote yes. Here are the basic advantages listed by the pro-referendum but boiled down into a shorter version. (a) The problems with high traffic congestion in several areas due to the small amounts of money being spent on transportation will be alleviated. And the problems in Georgia are not small; the transportation problems here are some of the worse in the country. It turns out that Georgia state transportation spending per capita ranks 48th in the US. Georgia ranks high too in the US ranking of total hours that the average commuter spends driving back and forth to work . . . Georgia ranks fourth. (b) The money is needed to expand the transportation systems available because what is in the transportation budget now only covers the necessary maintenance costs for the next 30 years. (c) Not only will road improvements make a drive to work faster, projects like the interchange improvements to Interstate 285 and Georgia State Highway will make driving on Georgia roads safer. The Interchange 285/400 project will be paid with 75 percent funding from the federal government. It is a good opportunity to use the matching funds for something thousands of people will have a benefit. (ART & GDT metroatlantatransportationvote.com)
Jobs and Economy
Joyner, reporting for the Atlantic Journal Constitution wrote that the “metro Atlanta Road Builders” are putting an all out effort into getting the referendum passed because they have so much to gain from its passage (Joyner ajc.com). Finally they would have projects and would be able to get their employees back to work. They would also need resources so they would be buying asphalt, gravel and fuel needed to get the new projects and improvements finished. The potential for creating jobs is estimated to be in the tens of thousands (Regional Transportation Memorandum www.metroatlantatransportationvote)
On the other hand Hart, also reporting for the AJC, has a little bit of a different take. Hart started her news story with a balanced report of the opinions of the no versus the yes voters. While the opponents repeat their stance against the cost of operating mass transit the advocates respond by comparing mass transit costs to the costs of maintaining good roads. Hart then contends that “the budget will be stretched even more to operate and maintain any new projects that are built after the tax sunsets in 10 years” (Hart ajc.com). The fear that there may not be enough money in ten years is one of the main points made on the anti-T-SPLOST websites.
Vague, fearful and unconvincing No-vote reasoning
Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, Republican has claimed that traffic conditions will not be improved by projects proposed in the referendum. He says that everyone wants improved traffic and “Each one of us is committed to start that process immediately following what we believe will be the failure of the T-SPLOST on July 31″ (MyFoxAtlanta Staff, myfoxatlanta.com) If there are better ideas then this is the time to share them. Waiting until the assumed failure of the T-SPLOST seems very late to offer an improvement on the plan.
A Word Press Blog dedicated to convincing people to vote no has listed the rebuttals from Mike Lowry who is identified as a tax activist. The rebuttals are not convincing. Instead of addressing each of the ten benefits the rebuttal asks more questions or states generalities. For example the benefits state that “air quality improvement will be equal to taking 72,000 vehicles off the roads daily.” The rebuttal gives a general answer that emissions will be great from the mass transit will greater because the empty trains and busses will be running. It would be possible to make calculations to compare. (PATCH.com as cited by tsplost.wordpress.com)
Something that may help undecided voters make a choice is the answer to the question ‘What happens if there is a no vote?’ Adam Clemons, CEO of ABC political consulting, says the transportation referendum will be back on the election ballot if the no-votes win this time around. (Davis theridge957.com) On the other hand there are citizens who favor the referendum but are not so sure they will take the time to vote. (Leslie ajc.com) So if the elections see a majority of no-votes this time the Republicans will have a chance to share their better ideas and we can look forward to seeing the T-SPOLST on the ballot the next time we head to the voting booth. Another suggestion is from the Georgia Family Council which asks two interesting questions (a) why do legislators put the burden of the decision-making on voters instead of making the decision themselves and (b) why not let each region make budget cutbacks as they choice instead of raising taxes? (West georgiafamily.org) Unfortunately these suggestions are hard to take seriously at this late date. A yes vote seems wise to me because of the economic benefits, creating a batch of new jobs with staying power plus the savings in both travel time and commuter costs. Even if the 1 percent sales tax only offered repaired roads and safer interchanges I would vote yes because all the rest is like icing on the cake.
Atlanta Regional Development (ART) & Georgia Department of Transportation (GDT). (2011 October 15). Transportation Investment Act Final Report – Approved Investment List Atlanta Roundtable Region. PDF. Accessed from http://www.metroatlantatransportationvote.com/documents/final_report.pdf
Regional Transportation Referendum. Metro Atlanta Transportation Vote. Atlanta Regional Development (ART) & Georgia Department of Transportation (GDT). July 2012. Web. 26 July 2012. http://www.metroatlantatransportationvote.com/
Davis, Elizabeth. Mixed Opinions about T-SPLOST Referendum ahead of July 31rst Primary. The Ridges 957, News & Weather, 18 July 2012. Web. 26 July 2012.
Hart, Ariel. T-SPLOST projects costs include maintenance as well as construction. What price transportation? AJC.com, 12 July 2012. Web. 26 July 2012.
Joyner, Tammy. Road builders look for T-SPLOST boosts. The Atlanta Journal Constitution. 26 July 2012. Web. 26 July 2012.
Leslie, K. (2012 July 22). T-SPLOST campaign takes unusual turns. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (ajc.com) 22 July 2012. Web. 26 July 2012.
MYFOXATLANTA STAFF. Supporters, opponents gather for T-SPLOST referendum events. MyFoxAtlanta.com, 24 July 2012. Web. 25 July 2012.
T-SPLOST. “I’m voting yes . . .” T-SPLOST. 2012. Web. 26 July 2012.
T-SPLOST – Vote “No.” T-SPLOST: Response to the Arc ’10 Facts’ E-mail. 24 July 2012. Web. 26 July 2012. http://tsplost.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/t-splost-response-to-the-arc-10-facts-e-mail/#more-432
West, Tony. An Analysis of the TSPLOST Referendum. Center for Policy Studies. 19 July 2012. Web. 26 July 2012. http://www.georgiafamily.org/blogs/center-for-policy-studies/2012/07/an-analysis-of-the-tsplost-referendum/