The upcoming TSPLOST vote is of vital interest to all of us who live and work in Georgia. In fact, many of the reasons I will be voting "no" on the July 31 TSPLOST vote are the same ones that prompted my run for Congress in the first place. I hope you find some of this information useful as you talk with voters leading up to the election.
1 - I decided long ago I would never vote for a tax increase on myself. I have to live with my representatives raising taxes, but I don’t have to do it for them.
2 - TSPLOST is NOT a 1 percent tax increase. Much of the "pro" literature has lines like “a 1 penny increase” or “a 1 percent tax” or “raise the sales tax by 1 percent.” These are misleading at best. The sales tax where I live is 6 percent. Raising it to 7 percent is a almost a 17 percent increase in the tax I will be paying.
3 - As I read the project list, my region will be paying over $470 million to perform maintenance on MARTA, which has losses of about $500 million per year. If MARTA is losing this much money without paying maintenance, imagine what the loss would be if this was added. How will they maintain their system in the future, especially if the service is expanded?
4 - We have good reason not to trust them. One example - Governor Deal campaigned on removing the 400 toll. You may not remember, but in 2011 he did just that -- then instituted a ‘new’ toll a few days later. He actually made a statement at the time that he was glad to be able to keep the promise of removing the toll once the road was paid for. This would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
5 - Pushing the vote off to the citizens is an abdication of representative government. If elected officials decide more money needs to be spent on transportation projects then raise taxes or cut spending to pay for it and suffer the consequences. Don’t avoid all the hard decisions.
6 - Money is fungible - there is no difference between one dollar and any other. Raising taxes for transportation projects simply frees up money for other programs. Providing roads, bridges, etc. is something tax dollars are designed for. Now the government wants to keep the same income they had last year but not have to pay for all these projects. It seems to me that if we are pulling all these transportation projects out of their budget they should lower our taxes.
7 - New technology. I worked for a traffic engineering firm for almost 10 years and I saw what could be done to greatly reduce congestion by simply coordinating traffic signals with no changes to the roads. We are now on the verge of new technologies that will have a similar impact, from things as groundbreaking as the driverless car to things as simple as telecommuting. These advances will allow us to get more throughput from our existing infrastructure.
8 - What else could we do with $18 billion? Adam Goldfein, who has a collection of articles about TSPLOST has written a very interesting financial article about the projects on the list. If the goal of TSPLOST is to make Atlanta more competitive with other big cities, what if we instead purchased and launched seven space shuttles? Or 18 quality pro football teams? We could put up four Freedom Towers, or even build the tallest building in the world (certainly an attraction) and have enough money left over to build four amusement parks the size of Disneyland Hong Kong. Thinking bigger, we could buy almost 10 percent of South Carolina. Or, if you really want to reduce traffic, we could buy 180,000 jetpacks which, you have to admit, would be way cooler.
9 - I am also suspicions about the fact that about 17 percent of the money goes to cities and counties to, essentially, spend as they wish.Some have projects ready but most do not. I fear this money was promised to ensure their support.
After doing my research, these are my top nine reasons for a "no" vote on July 31. I hope that you will consider what is going on here and make the right choice.
For your reference, here is a really good map of the regions: Region Map