Perdue’s transportation tax plan

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.

15 comments Add your comment

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 15th, 2010
10:59 am

“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.” And if you wish to secede from that group, similarly contact your state legislator.

Jess

January 15th, 2010
11:51 am

The point of a transportation plan is to relieve conjestion. When people want to point out cities with good transportation programs they invariably point to New York, London, Paris, and San Francisco among others. I have lived in three of these cities, and I assure you their conjestion problems were not solved by having a good public transportation. Their Cities are much more conjested than Atlanta.

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 15th, 2010
12:11 pm

Is there a list anywhere of the other 11 regions and the counties in each? A lot of Georgians don’t live in the Atlanta Region but we like to be informed too.

Democrats are Corrupt, Repukes are Lying Scum

January 15th, 2010
12:28 pm

We have built a lot of roads in Cobb with our Special sales tax for roads, but we would not be willing to pay that tax is part of our tax money were to be spent in Atlanta or Fulton County. We do not need to be grouped in with that pack of thieves. I read today in the wsj that Papa Doc Obama plans to shift transportation funding toward street cars, light and heavy rail, and away from highways. Perhaps now is the time for Cobb to start its own light rail system, one that runs East-West rather than the traditional North-South of Marta. We could hook into Marta at North Springs, if we so desired, via a transfer station, without involving Marta in any of our plans or spending. Of course we should use as much Federal money as possible in this light rail line.

Kyle Wingfield

January 15th, 2010
3:14 pm

Mr. Deluxe: I don’t have a link. I do have a PDF of it, which I’ll try to add to this post. If it doesn’t look good, I’m not sure what else to try…unless you want me to email it to you.

Kyle Wingfield

January 15th, 2010
3:23 pm

Road Scholar

January 15th, 2010
3:33 pm

Kyle , all certified urban areas have a long term plan and a short term plan. The Regional Transportation plan(RTP) and the Transportation improvement Plan (TIP)respectively are required by federal Law. They are added to the state plan by reference. So both short term and long term priorities have been defined; a projects’ place in the plan is based on anticipated revenues. If revenues are increased, then some projects could be accelerated.

A move afoot is to quantitantively evaluate the benefit/cost of each project to substantiate the priority list, and to alledgedly reduce political effects.

Oh, by the way, ARC RTP and TIP is for the 20 county metro area, based on the Air quality restrictions here. Chattanooga and Macon also have AQ non attainment areas.

Remember, under Perdue’s Fast Forward program 20 year bonds were sold. The debt service (principal and interest) on those (about $4-500 M/ year cost) is one of the resons GDOT has no money. The Gov has proposed $300 M more bonds for this year, spending monies we don’t have or putting payback on our “children’s “shoulders. Isn’t this the conservative’s claims against President Obama’s programs?

jconservative

January 15th, 2010
3:42 pm

The tax vote is going to 2012 so that Sonny does not take the blame for another tax increase on his watch.

Kyle Wingfield

January 15th, 2010
3:46 pm

Road Scholar: The 12 regional commission districts don’t necessarily match up with federal-designated metropolitan statistical areas (not sure what you mean by “certified urban area”). The 12 state districts are bigger — they have to include all 159 counties, whereas MSA’s don’t. The premise is that people from outside an MSA (or a T-SPLOST grouping of counties that may have emerged under that plan) spend money in an urban area but don’t necessarily get to vote about whether a tax is raised there or, importantly, what is done with the money raised.

All that to say, while there may be some overlap in the plans done for the feds and the plans done for the state, the former would be inadequate and irrelevant for a large number of counties.

As for the difference between these bonds and the Obama stimulus, I think there would have been less backlash against federal spending on infrastructure. But that didn’t end up being a very large part of the stimulus. And very little of the stimulus appears to have been very stimulating.

Kyle Wingfield

January 15th, 2010
3:47 pm

jconservative: That thinking is probably more prevalent among legislators, since Perdue is a lame duck and I haven’t heard of him mulling another elective office.

Intown Lib

January 15th, 2010
3:56 pm

City of Atlanta sales tax is already at 8% (state/city/county/sewers/MARTA). How about just raising income taxes or doing toll roads? I know it wouldn’t let money from a region stay in its region but, come on. 9% sales tax? This is getting ridiculous.

Intown Lib

January 15th, 2010
4:01 pm

DCRLS: I would be against Cobb County using MY federal tax dollars in an attempt to build yet more stupid roads or otherwise seal itself off from the real City that makes Cobb County a viable place to live. Like it or not, Cobb is in the same region as Atlanta. And as far as transportation is concerned, Cobb is part of the problem. They’ve blocked MARTA expansion and led to our congestion problems on I-75. I hope Washington doesn’t give people like you a dime.

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 15th, 2010
4:15 pm

Kyle

Thanks for posting that PDF.

One problem I see in my 12 county area is that there are probably enough people in the 2 largest counties to outvote the other 10.

dewstarpath

January 15th, 2010
5:11 pm

Intown Lib – I agree 100%.

Prior to the CCT system, the only way to get to Cobb
for work or school in the 1980’s was the Greyhound bus.
It often took 2 1/2 hours just to go 15 miles ! And MARTA
today has been so badly mismanaged it cost as much to
ride today almost as much as the Greyhound did then for
a round-trip ticket. If things get any worse, the only
alternative to cars and SUVs will be cabs.

CliffATL

January 18th, 2010
9:38 pm

Transportation funding MUST BE statewide. There are too many problems with regional funding:

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-25727-Atlanta-Metro-Transportation-Examiner~y2010m1d13-Transportation-Funding–Regional-or-Statewide

Fulton and Dekalb county voters already have mass transit (MARTA) and tax themselve 1% – who in their right minds think those same voters will be chomping at the bit to approve an additional 1% tax to build more roads, wider roads, toll road, toll tunnels and HOT lanes in Cobb, Gwinnett, Clayton, Rockdale, Douglas, Cherokee, Paulding, et all…..