Poll Position: What do other tax approvals tell us about T-SPLOST?

For Atlanta residents, this week brought another trip to the ballot box — and another sales tax approved.

This time, it was the re-authorization of a 1 percent sales tax to fund more repairs to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure. It passed overwhelmingly. Just four months ago, voters in six metro counties chose to extend 1 percent SPLOSTs (special-purpose local-option sales taxes) for school construction. Just over a year ago, Cobb residents voted to keep their own SPLOST.

Regardless of how I personally plan to vote, I think the approval of other sales taxes:

  • Have no bearing (39 Votes)
  • Mean the T-SPLOST is more likely to pass in metro Atlanta (38 Votes)
  • Mean the T-SPLOST is less likely to pass in metro Atlanta (10 Votes)

Total Voters: 87

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All this self-taxation has observers, including yours truly, wondering what the impact will be for the T-SPLOST referendum to be held in July.

On one hand, folks don’t seem hesitant to pass these sales taxes. Most cases haven’t even been close calls (the Cobb vote was an exception). Perhaps the Taxed Enough Already mentality hasn’t really taken hold.

Then again, all of the taxes that have already passed were renewals of existing taxes — levies that people were already accustomed to paying. And while they might trust that money for school buildings, parks and sewers overseen only by their own local elected officials will be well spent, a multibillion-dollar list of projects stretching across 10 counties is an iron horse of a different color.

So, regardless of how you personally plan to vote on the T-SPLOST, do you think these other approved sales taxes indicate the transportation tax will pass in metro Atlanta or not? That’s this week’s Poll Position question. As always, answer in the nearby poll and in the comments thread below.

– By Kyle Wingfield

65 comments Add your comment


March 9th, 2012
5:43 am

The T-SPLOST is for a different purpose. It is not one that is looked on favorably nor truly necessary.

Karl Mark

March 9th, 2012
6:04 am

I have never voted for any LOST but with the people out there who thinks it’s free money I think it will pass. That will make some areas have a 9% sales tax then start watching it impact sales.Behold the awesome power of the sheeple.


March 9th, 2012
6:39 am

The SPLOSTs that passed each had one locally-elected group responsible for spending it.

The T-SPLOST money… some of it will go to the state coffers, some will be spent in your local community, some will be spent elsewhere. Several groups will coordinate how it’s distributed, most of the groups responsible for spending it were appointed and not elected. It’s not clear-cut who is really responsible and how citizens can affect it. So the success of the other groups will have no bearing on T-SPLOST’s success or failure.

It’s a mess and the legislature and governor showed absolutely NO leadership creating this mess. They deserve to have it fail and then to have companies tell them that they’re relocating until they get this mess under control.

ragnar danneskjold

March 9th, 2012
6:45 am

I always vote against taxes, and I am always on the losing side here in Gwinnett. I believe the T-SPLOST will pass here, but not with my assistance.

Ayn Rant

March 9th, 2012
6:49 am

T-SPLOST is an opportunity to create lots of jobs, and to improve the infrastructure to attract private investment. No one will notice or miss the few cents that the tax will add to their local purchases.

Will the voters approve it? I fear not. Few voters care about improving and maintaining their communities and their country, or can make a mental connection between investment and prosperity.

The useless, lily-livered, self-indulgent Georgia state government should have authorized T-SPLOST without bothering us with a referendum.

Van Jones

March 9th, 2012
7:06 am

SPLOSTs are always pitched as a device where “someone else” will pay more.

Royale with Cheese

March 9th, 2012
7:09 am

If you ever support a Tax INCREASE, you probably either don’t pay any or a product of the Clayton County ‘Skool’ System (or comparable entity of government ineptitude).

Misty Fyed

March 9th, 2012
7:11 am

The stimulus attitude is still with us. Every new tax will have the “it will create jobs” moniker added to it so you look like a heel for opposing it. As far as “maintaining their communities”; well I already pay taxes to do that, why should I tax myself for something I’m already paying for. Make Congress get out of re-election mode and lead. The voting public simply does not have the information to make a wise decision. That’s why we elect and pay representatives. Monitor the programs, ensure the funds are spend appropriately. If there isn’t enough money; take it for somewhere else. If that doesn’t work, raise taxes.

Royale with Cheese

March 9th, 2012
7:11 am

0h, yeah:

0bama Sux.

Senor Coughee

March 9th, 2012
7:50 am

Why volunteer to pay a tax which will pay for roads and take the chance of the state charging us a toll to use. End the HOT lane and 400 tolls first, and might consider voting for T-SPLOST.

Mike C.

March 9th, 2012
8:03 am

The idea that all surrounding counties must be included in Atlanta’s grand plans is crazy. Why should the people of, say Fayette County, help pay for Atlanta’s public transportation? No, it would not help relieve the roadways. A better idea is to spend funds for attracting businesses to outer counties so people don’t have to rely on driving all that way into Atlanta for work. But then again, Atlanta would not want this, then they would loose a tax base.

This idea that everyone has to travel to Atlanta for work does not work. If Atlanta wants to tax their residents for public transportation (basically roaming homeless shelters) then let then do so. But don’t make other counties pay for Atlanta’s problems.

Karl Marx

March 9th, 2012
8:10 am

Ayn Rant “T-SPLOST is an opportunity to create lots of jobs, and to improve the infrastructure to attract private investment”

Pure BS, that is nothing but government freeloader talking points. At a sale tax of 9% for many areas this will cause people to cut back on spending. People in retail sales and those that manufacture and service good retail goods will suffer. Those areas will LOSE JOBS. NO sales tax ever generates jobs. Look at Cat. They didn’t come here because of anything but taxpayer incentives aka corporate welfare.


March 9th, 2012
8:15 am

I live in atlanta and already pay for MARTA. I would love for an expansion to marta, so I could get rid of a car. but alas, I will not pay for *this* since it includes roads. I suspect they added roads because 1) they want more roads, for various reasons and 2) to entice people to vote for it.
Why don’t the legislators do their jobs and raise taxes if they want to raise taxes? We elected *them* for a reason. Why is it the voters job to do this?
I just had TWO splosts pass, which means the sales tax is way high. In TN they don’t have income tax – so their 9% sales tax makes sense (sort of). But here, I pay 7% or so in income tax (one of the highest in the country by the way – it’s lower in Mass) – *and* I’m paying almost 10% in sales tax. Something’s gotta give, that’s for sure.

Road Scholar

March 9th, 2012
8:16 am

If you don’t pass it, what is your alternative to produce transportation improvements? If you have not noticed, we are falling behind on our transportation investments. Yes, investments. You have to plan, build and maintain them to reap the benefits. Our roads are starting to crumble; if this continues to go on, it will be too late.

Besides this tax has a dedicated cause and project list (except for the 15% that goes to local governments), and it sunsets in 10 years. If it is not managed correctly and ALL listed projects completed in the 10 years, then we won’t have another. This is what has happened in other states and communities US wide. Our SPLOST is based on one in Denver that has been renewed since they made it work as advertised.

Not all desired projects made the list due to funding levels predicted. SE Dekalb, you had time and representation to get the eastern MARTA rail extension in as a needed project, but others had higher priorities. Don’t pass it and cry while you sit in congestion there or elsewhere, whether you are on a bus on in a car! Is that the result you want?

I still want the state gas tax to be adjusted for inflation until they can figure a way to administer a congestion based mileage tax, but that day isn’t soon. So legislature, get to work…..focus…on transportation…and put your thoughts on guns, abortion, illegals…away. I Know you can do it…if you would even try!!! Focus!!!!

AU Liberal in ATL

March 9th, 2012
8:16 am

Hey Mike, pull your skirt down a little. I can see your little racism hanging there.

Hey Royale, did you do him first or did he do you first? And how’d you like it?

Everybody else, if you don’t like the way Atlanta does business, just stay the hell out. Problem solved.

Have a nice day. Good bye.

R’s don’t have a candidate or a prayer in November. Keep the circus going.


March 9th, 2012
8:16 am

Mike C., you’re an idiot! That is such backwards thinking and I can guarantee you that not all businesses want to re-locate to the suburbs of Atlanta. Suburban traffic is worse than intown traffic in several locations (perimeter, cumberland, all of gwinnett). So please quit being an idiot thanks!


March 9th, 2012
8:17 am

“Why should the people of, say Fayette County, help pay for Atlanta’s public transportation?”
Examine the LICENSE PLATES of the cars that are parked at MARTA train stations; one will note that the majority of these plates are from OUTSIDE the Fulton/DeKalb MARTA district. These people are using a system in which they made NO INVESTMENT! Time to pay up……

A reader

March 9th, 2012
8:28 am

I voted Yes for the school SPLOTS last year because it has a very narrow and specific purpose — construction of schools (new and existing) in Fulton County.

TSPLOTS is neither narrow or specific. It includes boondoggle projects like the BeltLine that do little to alleviate existing transportation issues. I will vote No to TSPLOTS.

Road Scholar

March 9th, 2012
8:30 am

Van Jones: A sales tax is paid by residents and VISITORS WHO USE OUR SERVICES, in this case our transportation systems. Do you want property taxes, or income taxes to foot the bill? A congestion based mileage tax is the best way but the system isn’t in place to get non resident users to pay there share.

Misty Eyed: Have you noticed in history that we pulled ourselves out of recessions in the past with infrastructure programs? Why? They not only created jobs, but also a useful legacy for further use. Does unemployment payments do that? How do you want to spend the money? On something that lasts and benefits the whole community?

Mike C: Everyone in the outlying suburbs do not come to Atlanta…but have you noticed the congestion at rush hour on our interstates and arterials nonetheless? If you have not noticed Atlanta is not only the “heart” of the metro area, but also the state ( not criticizing since the legislature fails to recognize this also.).

Now breathe the air! If we do not address congestion our Air Quality will continue to degrade also.


March 9th, 2012
8:32 am

” The voting public simply does not have the information to make a wise decision. That’s why we elect and pay representatives.”

hahahaha….I needed a laugh this morning.
The implication that the reprsentatives that get elected in this state are somehow soooo much smarter than the public is hilarious.

Our grandkids future

March 9th, 2012
8:46 am

If some of these posters had their way we would have never built I-285! “Too far outside Atlanta.”

If some of these posters had their way we would have never built Hartsfield! “Air travel is only for the rich.”

If some of these posters had their way we would have never had the Olympics! “Atlanta? You’re kidding, right.”

If some of these posters had their way we would have never built the Georgia Dome, World Congress Center, Mall of Georgia, State Farmers Market, Kennesaw University, Fulton Industrial, etc.! “We want things to stay just as they are.”

Well, things don’t “Stay just as they are.” They either get better; or the get worse.

We have 3 to 4 times the need than the resources. For years now we have lagged all our competitors in investing in ourselves. After almost 4 years of hard work, this is truly the best option that we have available to us.

On July 31, the metro Atlanta region, and the whole state of Georgia, will have their chance to decide, for themselves, whether to move forward or slide backwards.

I’m for moving forward.


March 9th, 2012
8:50 am

The TSPLOST has a 4 to 1 return on investment dollars. We are not voting for now, but for the future. Do we really want our children being forced to pay high gas prices forever. This is a step to become energy independent. The TSPLOST will get approved in July.

Question Man

March 9th, 2012
8:51 am

Isn’t TSPLOST likely to pass based on the well-financed, well-organized support and the rag-tag opposition?

Just say "NO" to TSPLOST

March 9th, 2012
8:54 am

I wouldn’t trust the crooks in the worthless city of Atlanta or the equally worthless and crooked counties of Fulton and DeKalb with one red cent of my tax money, imho!


March 9th, 2012
8:59 am

Wouldn’t it be much easier to hold politicians accountable for spending? But instead, enough mindless lemmings go vote themselves tax increases. Really? 8 percent sales tax, state income tax, and moderate to high gas taxes, ad valorum taxes… how much is enough on what you get for a return in this state?

Our grandkids future

March 9th, 2012
9:15 am


While your questions are legitimate, there are legitimate answers too.

The gas tax is not moderate to high. The Ga gas tax is the second lowest in the nation.

And the gas tax goes into a general fund where you know what can happen.

And the gas tax can’t be spent for airports, bikepaths, transit or any other non-highway uses.

The TIA can be spent for anything transportation related. It will only pay for specific projects. It will only last for 10 years or until the estimated revenues are received…whichever comes first. The revenues stay in the region where it is collected. You decide whether you want it, not some state rep. from the coast or the mountains.

Yes, it’s a sales tax increase. But I know what it’s going for, when it’s going to be spent and when the tax ends. Income taxes and ad valorum taxes don’t do either.


March 9th, 2012
9:26 am

Why stop at a penny on most of these splost, heck just go a nickle or two if they are so dang great.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

March 9th, 2012
9:26 am

Again following Kyle’s advice, the question being how likely is this tax to be approved based on previous tax votes this year, I don’t think there is any real correlation to them.

You had local votes with clear (in most cases) local projects of definitive benefit delineated in the SPLOST and water referenda, where you do not have that with T-SPLOST..

You also had local advocates (as well as detractors) for each vote, where none have seemed to materialize thus far on T-SPLOST. However, it is early yet.

If someone doesn’t start a focused campaign to pass this, I suspect it will fail. Which wouldn’t bother me one little bit.


March 9th, 2012
9:32 am

I think we should vote no on the new transportation tax. The metro Atlanta area is already maxed out on the number of citizens that the system can handle and building more transportation will only have more people move to the area. If you want more people in Georgia then we need to start thinking about opportunities in south, east or West Georgia and forget about more growth in the metro area.


March 9th, 2012
9:37 am

Just give them more to waste dum sh-ts,they can,t even manage what they have now,pretty dam nice things they own there buddy and just think it will never come down.


March 9th, 2012
9:44 am

Ahhhh, the perpetual SPLOST tax. It never dies and rarely delivers.

I live in Clayton County but do most of my shopping in Fayette where the sales tax is 1% lower.

People here in Clayton will ALWAYS support a sales tax increase although most of the county employees I know never do.

Makes ‘ya wonder what they know that the rest of Clayton’s voters don’t? Kinda like the studies that show public school teachers are almost twice as likely to send their kids to private schools. What do THEY know that we don’t?


March 9th, 2012
9:47 am

Oops! Forgot to answer the poll. It’ll likely pass in the hope that change will be delivered. Less change for taxpayers, more change for politicians.


March 9th, 2012
9:48 am

Does anyone think that a Board consisting of H. Lamar Willis is actually looking out for the transportation needs of our region? If this guy will setup a fake charity for kids and then take the money, do you really not think that the same hands will be reaching into the T-SPLOST cookie-jar?

And look at my own county – Gwinnett. We’ve set aside $90 million for a feasibility study that actually costs a mil to do. So instead of our traditional shady land deals, we’re now moving into the next racket of doling out millions for fake studies.

Phil O'Smiley

March 9th, 2012
9:51 am

Sure… don’t pass the splost, but then don’t complain about the high cost of gas prices. The TSPLOST would give more Atlantans an alternative transportation method when gas prices skyrocket, cut down on the number of cars on the road, and cut our oil consumption. If you don’t vote for TSPLOST, then continue to enjoy the comfort of your 12 mpg SUVs while you sit on 400 wasting your dollars idling on the highway.

Do what??????

March 9th, 2012
9:56 am


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old timer

March 9th, 2012
10:01 am

I live in TN for a while and complained about the 9.75% sales tax there…but, at least I did not pay state income tax and only $30 for a car tag……I will not be votin for anymore taxes.

Stephenson Billings

March 9th, 2012
10:25 am

While I don’t care for voting for more taxes, I see this as the beginning (hopefully) of weaning ourselves off the federal gov’t teat in the area of transportation/infrastructure spending. Right now, about 95% of the current DOT construction projects are 2/3 to 3/4 funded w/federal money (and that doesn’t include the handful of “shovel ready” stimulus projects).


March 9th, 2012
10:39 am

All the taxes that Kyle mentioned that passed were local. The TSPLOST will not pass – just look at the crappy list put together by the elected clowns:

$100 million for the Clayton Bus System??? The same bus system that folded due to lack of ridership???? Gotta love paying for something that no ones wants.


March 9th, 2012
10:39 am

I don’t think these are related. The others were existing taxes. On top of that, the Atlanta water tax was a way for Atlanta to get outsiders to partly pay for their neglect over the last few decades. They were going to have to pay one way or the other.

This is an additional tax. And its going to be money people wouldn’t pay otherwise. Its going to be a question of whether people think the project list is worth the money. I think approving it is a total disaster for the area from which we will never recover. At least $2 billion is for “economic development” (i.e. gifts to real estate developers) and will be money we can never get back. The Beltline will absorb a huge chunk of MARTA’s operating budget, forcing cutbacks in other services when the tax expires. Voting for this tax is a vote to condemn Atlanta to living with ever increasing traffic and to destroy the bus system that so many people rely on.


March 9th, 2012
10:45 am

Old Timer you are right!

I was shocked how high the income tax rate was. And the top rate starts at $10,000! License plates are unbelievable.
And, we have the highest sales tax rates in the nation. Property taxes aren’t any lower than the norm.

Gas taxes are low, but they don’t spend anything.

We have inefficient, corrupt government here.


March 9th, 2012
10:47 am

Instead of looking at this as a tax, more people should look at this as an investment in their property. If this doesn’t pass, then Metro-Atlanta has absolutely zero chance of funding badly needed transportation improvements for the foreseeable future.

What does this mean? It means companies looking to relocate will NOT choose Atlanta. It also means companies that are in Atlanta will look elsewhere. It also means less federal transportation dollars coming to the region. The end result of which is even lower property values as traffic worsens and employers flee to areas that address their transportation issues.

Money and jobs flow to regions that help themselves…not shoot themselves in the foot. So while it may mean a few dollars from you and me in the short-term, in the long-term it could mean several thousands of dollars in the value of your home.


March 9th, 2012
10:56 am

T SPLOST sounds good until you read the details as to what the money will be spent on. Many, many,many projects that are simply wasteful.



March 9th, 2012
10:57 am

what happend to the days when projects were budgeted out of the normal city/area/state coffers without self imposed additional taxes?

Taxes “for the kids”
Taxes “for transportation”
Taxes “for parks”

all sound nice, but are boondoggles and are not needed.


March 9th, 2012
11:04 am

The reasons the referendum projects are so bad relates to two things:
1. Corruption-they are all trying to get money for their friends, usually real estate developers.
2. Hostility towards cars. At one time I found the criteria for selecting projects for the TSPLOST. It was filled with things like, “slows traffic.” Seriously! That was a positive point. There were several other similar criteria. In MARTA’s study of the GA400 corridor they literally devote an entire page, page 15, of their 25 page document to a quote, “Trying to cure traffic congestion with more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt.”

Trying to cure traffic congestion by spending most of your money on something 4% of the population uses while trying to increase density is the best case of self-delusion I have ever seen. Atlanta’s roads can’t handle the current population with a 5% unemployment rate (its barely tolerable at 10%). 100% of new residents aren’t going to use mass transit. The only thing this proposal might do is drive more people and jobs to the suburbs, increasing sprawl, while increasing cut through traffic, harming the quality of life in many neighborhoods. Of course, that is what their head in the sand approach over the last 20 years has already done. And these “green” people have probably increased pollution. Cars idling in traffic are the worst polluters. If they are moving, the pollution isn’t as bad. Atlanta, despite having no heavy industry, or geographic anomalies like Denver and California, ranks near the top of nearly every pollutant list there is after the California cities. Its unusual to have clear views of downtown.

Kyle Wingfield

March 9th, 2012
11:17 am

bu2 @ 11:04: Tell me about it.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

March 9th, 2012
11:18 am

This time, it was the re-authorization of a 1 percent sales tax to fund more repairs to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure. It passed overwhelmingly. Just four months ago, voters in six metro counties chose to extend 1 percent SPLOSTs (special-purpose local-option sales taxes) for school construction. Just over a year ago, Cobb residents voted to keep their own SPLOST.

The obvious message is that government has mismanaged resources for years and voters are willing to earmark money to (hopefully) fix what government has allowed to crumble.

Bart Abel

March 9th, 2012
11:29 am

The reason that sales taxes are even necessary to fund transportation is because of the special tax giveaways and relatively flat income tax that our state maintains.

By choosing to move away from income and business taxes toward sales taxes, we’re choosing to tax the poor at higher rates than we tax the middle class (in other words they pay a higher percentage of their incomes in such sales taxes), and we’re choosing to tax the middle class at higher rates than we tax the rich. Not only is this approach immoral, it’s also economically self-defeating.

I’ll be voting against the SPLOST, not because I’m against relieving congestion, but because sales taxes are the wrong way to pay for it.


March 9th, 2012
11:39 am


I’m tired of hearing about it.


March 9th, 2012
11:54 am

Below is what I shared with one of your colleuges at the AJC on her similar article from earlier this week.

The difference is the sewer tax is very clear in what it is doing, how the money is spent and the fact that it benefits every resident of Atlanta.
The Tsplost is a giant barrel of pork doled out to make sure everyone gets something but in total the region gets nothing.
Even someone without any type of planning degree understands what Atlanta needs is a true and comprehensive transit plan.
If Marta added rail lines like this:
Up 75 to Town Center
Up 85 to 316
East on 20 to Conyers
West on 20 To Douglasville
South on 75 to Griffin
South on 85 to Peachtree City
You now have a plan that services every region on an equal basis and actually makes sense. Instead we have bike paths and roads with bike lanes and new curbs and intersections, what a joke.
I couldn’t agree more that Atlanta needs traffic relief, but I would bet the plan that has been put forward will not pass.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

March 9th, 2012
11:57 am

By choosing to move away from income and business taxes…

I’m not aware of any state income tax cuts recently…have I missed something?