The number that’s getting the attention from the transportation tax plan which Gov. Sonny Perdue announced yesterday is 2012 — as in, a referendum for voters to tax themselves to pay for new projects won’t be held this year, but two years from now.
In reality, though, there might not be a two-year difference after all.
Stay with me, because I’m going into the weeds for a moment:
The vote that people had in mind before yesterday was a referendum to allow regional T-SPLOSTs (Transportation Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Taxes). But that referendum would only have amended the state constitution to allow counties to group themselves together for a T-SPLOST. There still would have to have been a second vote later on for citizens to approve (or decline) the tax. And that second vote couldn’t have taken place until 2012, or at the earliest 2011.
All of which means we’d still have waited until 2011 or 2012 to put a new sales tax in motion.
Of course, voters can still ask why it took until January 2010 for the governor and the Legislature to get to this point. The frustration is understandable. But we can’t go back in time now; we are where we are.
The new plan means the groupings are already set, and no constitutional amendment is needed. So, the new question is: Why wait until 2012?
The governor’s answer is that he wants clear, prioritized project lists to be ready well before any referendum. That’s a perfectly reasonable expectation. And his position is that 11 of the 12 districts are unlikely to complete a project list before this November.
The one exception, dear metro Atlanta readers, is the Atlanta Regional Commission.
The ARC is farther along than the other regional commissions in planning for new roads and transit. It just might be able to pull a good project list together by this fall — although there would still be the sizable risk that a tax referendum would fail in these still-uncertain economic times, and that a “no” vote would set back efforts for the foreseeable future.
The legislation for this new plan can still be changed. It could, for instance, allow the 12 districts themselves to decide when to hold a vote (although there is a potential constitutional snag that I won’t describe in detail for now).
Bottom line: If you live in Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry or Rockdale counties and you’d rather get the ball rolling in 2010 rather than 2012, let your state legislators know.