The test of true leadership is the trust and respect it inspires. The Regional Transportation Referendum, T-SPLOST, to be decided on July 31st does not past this test. Those we elected to lead lacked the courage to devise a fair and cost effective funding mechanism for state transportation projects. Rather, like a salesman who lacks confidence in his product, they are using harsh financial penalties to scare us into voting for the largest tax increase in Georgia’s history.
First, our locally elected officials were told they must place the T-SPLOST on the ballot or suffer a 30% penalty in state funding for local transportation projects. Secondly, we voters are being told that we must approve this tax or suffer a 20% penalty in state funding for local projects. That’s not leadership – that’s coercion. Your motor fuel taxes supply the money for those state funds! The final coercive move puts every county at the mercy of its region. If a county defeats the tax but the majority of voters in the region supports it then the tax will be imposed on all the counties. Even the preamble to the referendum on the ballot is a blatant sales pitch for a ‘yes’ vote. By strong-arming voters and damaging the integrity of our ballot our elected leaders do us a serious disservice.
Georgia enjoys a wonderful transportation infrastructure. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the rapidly growing port of Savannah and our interstate system are world class. A recent CNBC study ranked Georgia’s transportation infrastructure 3rd best in America, and we must maintain and improve this infrastructure. But a disparate group of twelve regional projects is not a wise or cost effective approach.
We all acknowledge the need to address Atlanta’s traffic gridlock. Yet the regional plan for that area designates the majority of T-SPLOST funds be spent for expansion of mass transit when only 5% of commuters use mass transit. This is not an effective solution; and MARTA’s ongoing financial woes despite significant subsidies call into question the cost effectiveness of a mass transit approach.
The current plan will give the Georgia DOT oversight authority for T-SPLOST dollars raised and the projects they will fund. This does not seem to be a wise or cost effective decision since last year the GDOT received its fourth straight scathing financial audit report.
Our state leaders say they have no Plan B if voters do not approve this tax. But there is a Plan B and it is fundamental tax reform. A vote against the T-SPLOST is a vote for true leadership. Let’s join together to make that happen.
Mayor of Dalton