T-SPLOST faces not just a referendum, but maybe a lawsuit

T-SPLOST: The Campaign began this past week as proponents of the 10-year, $7.2 billion sales tax unveiled advertisements to run on television and radio. Their message: Your commute keeps you away from your family; tax yourself to spend more time at home.

(Officially, the group behind the ads “is engaged in educational activities and will not advocate for or against passage of the sales tax referendum.” But I defy you to find a T-SPLOST opponent among the 50 people it suggests as “educational” speakers about the issue.)

Their theme about family time is smart enough. But the ads cite a curious statistic: Metro Atlantans’ average commute is “over an hour a day,” which might not sound so bad to someone who now drives inside the Perimeter from Acworth or Buford, or from Marietta to Snellville. What’s more, it’s passing strange to campaign on improving a commute of 30 minutes each way when the metric used to evaluate the projects on the T-SPLOST list concerned trips of no more than 45 minutes.

In any event, the campaign just might be upstaged before the July 31 referendum by a new act — T-SPLOST: The Lawsuit.

After hearing rumors of such a lawsuit, I spoke recently with an attorney consulting with tax opponents. While offering no promises of a legal action, the attorney said discussions are “in the works, moving in the direction of filing a lawsuit.”

The legal premise is that the Georgia Constitution allows only local jurisdictions to form “special districts” that can levy taxes and provide government services in more than one county, not the Legislature. State legislators, of course, are the ones who in 2010 adopted the Transportation Investment Act, creating 12 regions across the state for the purposes of a T-SPLOST, including the 10-county metro Atlanta region.

As an example, the attorney pointed to Community Improvement Districts. The argument is that there are two CIDs for the Perimeter area, one in DeKalb and one in Fulton, because of the restriction on multicounty CIDs.

Is there a case here?

Attorneys who are either neutral or supportive of the tax tell me the odds of success for such a lawsuit are 50-50. That’s because, while one might also argue the Constitution allows legislators to create multicounty “special districts,” they have never tried to do so.

Indeed, multiple observers close to the process — both pro- and anti-T-SPLOST — say discussions in 2009 about a region-based tax plan always began with the assumption a constitutional amendment would be needed to allow legislators to create the regions. By the next year, that assumption had disappeared. The TIA became law, setting up this year’s referendum.

If a lawsuit is filed, and depending on how quickly the courts work to resolve it, implementation of the tax could be delayed by a year or two.

A bill filed this year by members of the Cobb and Fayette delegations, HR 1350, would spend that time delaying a T-SPLOST vote. Instead, voters this fall would consider a constitutional amendment allowing the Legislature to create multicounty special districts. If it passed, the referendum would be held in the future.

That bill appears to be blocked, so T-SPLOST backers may simply have to hope for a win in court. And that’s something no amount of advertising, good or bad, can guarantee.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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145 comments Add your comment

Logical Dude

March 16th, 2012
6:10 pm

OF course, when the GA legislature showed a lack of backbone to actually create a solution to the funding problem, they figured that nobody would vote themselves higher taxes.

So, creating the Regional districts is okay, but actually taxing regionally is against the constitution.

Gee, Thanks Georgia Legislature for keeping Atlanta from being a forward thinking state. Again.

Dumb and Dumber

March 16th, 2012
6:40 pm

I think they should save themselves the attorney fees. This T-SPLOST Turkey is so poorly conceived that it will fail. The projects were selected by local politicians who cared more about bringing the goods to their little burgs — without any thought to connectivity….it deserves to die. Maybe then the politicians will realize their limitations and find a way to think regionally. It won’t happen, but I’d rather things stay as they are then waste a billion dollars or two.

Dusty

March 16th, 2012
7:06 pm

I admit I know very little about the plans that go with T-SPLOST

But I certainly can tell when someone wants me to pay more taxes. NO WAY!

You can say I’m not thinking of the future or the past or sideways or up and down.. Right!

I am thinking of T-A-X-E-S and that is all it takes. So sorry but I like to keep my money.

Take ‘em to court!

Michael H. Smith

March 16th, 2012
7:26 pm

The continuing saga of how the T-SPLOST dies.

No Artificial Flavors

March 16th, 2012
7:41 pm

After extensively studying the T-SPLOST in my region, the drafting of the authorizing T-SPLOST legislation, speaking behind the scenes with certain officials, and examining the tumultuous and untrustworthy GDOT, I have concluded that while we do need major transportation improvements in this state, the T-SPLOST bill is a T-total turd. I hope it fails statewide and forces the good ‘ol boys to go back to the drawing board and do something right.

Will

March 16th, 2012
7:51 pm

TSPLOST is a failure at the one thing that most of us care about…improving traffic. Various interest who think there is money to be made from the work are standing in line. The usual boosters are on board along with the folks who want to force Atlantans into high density housing in the city core.
The overwhelming majority of us just want traffic to get better and TSPLOST won’t do nearly enough to justify the price tag.

Mandy Sue

March 16th, 2012
7:53 pm

Why would Cobb country support all that money going to a transit line from Cumberland to the Arts Center? This would mean that it will be thirty more years before we see meaningful improvement in traffic that actually goes where we travel every day. Tim Lee sold his soul and is about to become a private cititzen again.

Hillbilly D

March 16th, 2012
8:03 pm

Somebody should do a scientific survey on what percentage of people who complain about the traffic, moved here from somewhere else. ;-)

Strike and Replace

March 16th, 2012
8:14 pm

the funny part is Sonny knew. He just chose to “get a bill” rather than get it right.

ragnar danneskjold

March 16th, 2012
8:32 pm

While I will vote against T-SPLOST as “simply more wasteful expropriation of private wealth,” I think the lawsuit is almost as wasteful due to its prospects. But then I erroneously thought the GA Supremes would navigate the GA Constitution in a manner that would allow Charter schools, so don’t go by me.

sheepdawg

March 16th, 2012
9:52 pm

typical ga gop led legislature, many examples from sonny to the current crook

Liberals eat their children

March 16th, 2012
9:59 pm

There should be a lawsuit. Why? Because of the corruption and breaking a legal contract with the people of Georgia about the fauld with Ga400. The toll road on Ga400 was suppost to be for only 20 years and all the money was suppost to be use on Ga400’s debt pay down, maintance, and support staff with a sundown law attacted to the contract. Well Gina Evans and the T-Splost crowd lied to us all and broke the entire contract. Where’s the judge and the law backing the people of Georgia up. I guess the law is only for us “little people to obey” no one else. Incuding the jacka$$ Obama in Washington.

Liberals eat their children

March 16th, 2012
10:01 pm

sheepdawg, Don’t forget the democrat crooks like Mayor Reed, John Lewis, Scott, and the rest of the disgraceful liberals.

@@

March 16th, 2012
10:09 pm

Do you mean to tell me that all those yankees in Fayette County are standing in the way of progress? Maybe they learned a thing or two from living up North.

schnirt

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

March 16th, 2012
10:18 pm

Can this legislature be any more pathetic . . . .?

Has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats; everything to do with voting in people with room temperature IQ’s from BOTH parties. Some of our local legislators couldn’t spell CAT if you spotted ‘em the “C” and the “A”.

Hillbilly D

March 16th, 2012
10:44 pm

Maybe they learned a thing or two from living up North.

They weren’t born knowing it all? (IW&SH)

@@

March 16th, 2012
10:56 pm

Hillbilly:

They weren’t born knowing it all?

Not to hear them tell it.

bug

March 17th, 2012
2:45 am

Just another writer not telling the whole story. The county commissioners throughout the state are going to get a large portion of this money.

Road Scholar

March 17th, 2012
6:11 am

The local governments split up 15% of the money. They can use it for local projects.

So, with all the naysayers above, what is your solution? Sitting in traffic burning your precious fuel to go no where? Take a deep breath….the air quality will get worse!

And stop whining about the SR 400 tolls. Even though they screwed it up, they did halt the tolls for a short period. Now the toll money is going to transportation improvements in the SR 400 corridor; The first is at SR 400 @ I 85; broke ground the other day!

Buzz G

March 17th, 2012
9:23 am

Politicians everywhere are the same. They want to give everyone everything. But there are too many snouts at the trough. So they must find ever more creative was to spend and/or borrow to keep the slop coming for all those snouts. How about finding wasteful programs, shutting them down, and using those funds for needed roads. Don’t tell me there are no such programs. When we have Federal Inspectors coming into our schools and examining our children’s lunchboxes, we have too much government.

carlosgvv

March 17th, 2012
9:39 am

Given our politicians habit of taking tax money earmarked for one thing and using it for something else, I would not vote for this.

Common Sense

March 17th, 2012
10:00 am

The citizens of Metro Atlanta are fools for continuing to vote themselves tax increases. Taxpayers are being hit from every angle to provide government bureaucrats with more money to fund bloated and poorly run government departments. The recipients of our tax dollars can’t manage the money we give them now. Why give them more? Vote NO.

JohnnyReb

March 17th, 2012
10:02 am

T-SPLOST is a wealth transfer project from the South to the North. I would call it a typical Democratic fix if not for misguided Republicans backing/pushing it.

There is no sympathy here for the traffic woes on the North Side of town – you decided to live there, deal with it, pay for fixing it out of your own pocket. If you are hunting someone to blame, look no further than your government fathers who issued more building permits than infrascruture will support.

The South side has traffic problems as well – try an I-75 drive into Henry any weekday evening when people are trying to get home. One flat tire, hot engine or minor fender-bender and its gridlock. We need our money to fix our problems.

May T-SPLOST die a painful death that sends a message wide. The project list sucks and is misguided. The straw that broke the camels back is the MLK trolley. It clearly shows polliticans don’t know how to effectively use the money they do have.

Chip

March 17th, 2012
10:42 am

I live in the suburbs. Most of us I know out here don’t whine about the traffic all the time… those who actually do commute any distance in toward Atlanta just deal with it as part of life, and part of the price for the better quality of life out here.

The screaming, ranting, and raving comes from the local media and the in-town urban types… which leads to the logical conclusion that all the traffic hysteria is really just a cover for elitist urban liberal’s HATE for “others” who aren’t just like them. This is all about the big-city-wannabes (who fantasize that the really live in NYC or Paris) screaming their bile and outrage against all the inferior “backwards/racist/ignorant bigots” from the suburbs coming into liberal territory every day.

Of course, the usual corrupt big government and crony capalist types see the manufactured “controversy” as just another excuse/opportunity to hijack the power of government and empower and enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers.

By the way, I live in Woodstock and virtually never set foot or wheel in the silly provincial joke known as Atlanta. Why should money be taken from my wallet and burned down there?

Dusty

March 17th, 2012
10:54 am

I have no “hots” for T-SPLOST.. but

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!!! Wear the green and don’t act mean!!

I left you a poem over at the charter school blog. You gotta read it (’cause no one else will!)

CELEBRATE!!

Brian B

March 17th, 2012
11:37 am

From a legal perspective, I would be interested to see how the courts reconcile the tslost opponents’ arguments with state created regional bodies such as the Atlanta Regional Commission and the other RDCs. For that matter, how do they reconcile a regional tax already on the books for MARTA which is in two counties? Does that mean the ARC and MARTA go away? I don’t think so.

Oblama

March 17th, 2012
11:49 am

Dude – I think you made a mistake? Atlanta is not a state – though they think they are. News for you in Atlanta – there are more voters in “real” Georgia than in Atlanta – thank God!

Linda

March 17th, 2012
11:59 am

3 of Cobb County’s cities approved Sunday alcohol sales in Nov., ‘11. The other 3 cites as well as unincorporated Cobb Co. approved Sun. alcohol sales 3/6/12. The vote for unincorporated Cobb Co. was 54,359 yeas & 23,553 nays, passing by 30,806 votes.
The problem was that none of the city residents on Super Tues. were able to vote yea or nay on sales in unincorporated Cobb Co. 91,261 taxpayers of Cobb Co. were disenfranchised, taxpayers who vote for county commissioners & who will share in paying for the enforcement, licensing, public safety & who will share in the revenue increase from sales taxes. Taxation without representation?
The minor question is whether the outcome of the alcohol sales vote would have been different.
The major question is why did this happen. Was it a mistake or a conspiracy?
Should there be a re-vote, it would probably occur on 7/31/12, the same day of the SPLOST vote & when Cobb Commissioner Lee will be on the ballot. Was it a conspiracy to boost turnout on 7/31 & in any way to affect the vote?

Linda

March 17th, 2012
12:22 pm

Jay Leno observed that this is the 3rd St. Patrick’s Day since Obama has been in office & he hasn’t created one green job yet.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

March 17th, 2012
12:25 pm

So let’s see. The president sneers at the ignorance of 15th century Spaniards when, in fact, he is the one entirely ignorant of them. A man who has enjoyed a million dollars of elite education yet has never created a dime of wealth in his life sneers at a crippled farm boy with an eighth-grade schooling who establishes a successful business and introduces electrical distribution across Michigan all the way up to Sault Ste Marie. A man sneers at one of the pioneering women in broadcasting, a lady who brought the voices of T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton and others into the farthest-flung classrooms and would surely have rejected Obama’s own dismal speech as being too obviously reliant on “Half-A-Dozen Surefire Cheap Cracks For Lazy Public Speakers.” A man whose own budget officials predict the collapse of the entire U.S. economy by 2027 sneers at a solvent predecessor for being insufficiently “forward-looking.” – Mark Steyn

This obozo makes Sarah Palin look like the second coming of Aristotle.

Those students weren’t laughing along with obozo’s Harvard/ Chicago goony propaganda “side slappers,” they were laughing at him.

Any common idiot knows more than he does.

Linda

March 17th, 2012
12:51 pm

The rich Democrats are installing swimming pools & the not-so-rich Democrats are buying aquariums to boost Obama’s new pie-in-the-sky scheme of using algae in lieu of gas. A huge supply should be ready by, say, April.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

March 17th, 2012
12:55 pm

Algae that was grown 100,000 years ago is ready to be poured into your gas tank, all you have to do is drill for it, duh, freaking duh.

Wheelin

March 17th, 2012
1:14 pm

I don’t know why it’s constitutional for the voters in one county to be able to impose a tax on voters in another county expecially when the voters did not voluntarily enter into that political subdivision.

Josh

March 17th, 2012
1:18 pm

I’m tired of sitting in traffic. Enough said.

Bradley

March 17th, 2012
1:35 pm

The ITP crowd is demanding that those of us who chose to live else where should be deprived of road improvements that would actually improve our commutes and our lives in favor of overpriced mass transit. If the folks ITP wants transit, buy it. For the rest of us we want transportation options that take us where we need to go and increasingly that is not to the city center.
We need better ways to get down 75 or 400 or 85…not trains ITP. We need to get from Perimeter to Cumberland or from Winward to Marietta, not to get to Peachtree and Pine. We drive the roads every day and we know that traffic gets better ITP becasue jobs are increasintly located OTP.
The 75 commute is a good example. At 575 the traffic is terrible. After the 120 Loop it gets better. For the minority that travels from Cumberland to the city, it’s a walk in the park. Why then does it make sense to put in a train from Cumberland to the Arts Center? Could a project be any dumber?
TSPLOST architects ought to tell us what their real goal was because it certainly is NOT traffic improvement.

Hillbilly D

March 17th, 2012
2:11 pm

I don’t know why it’s constitutional for the voters in one county to be able to impose a tax on voters in another county expecially when the voters did not voluntarily enter into that political subdivision.

Excellent point. In my region, (not Atlanta), 2 counties can conceivably vote it in for the other 10 plus. Just don’t seem right to me.

No New Taxes, EVER!

March 17th, 2012
2:27 pm

Do not give the lying, thieving politicians YOUR money to squander on their worthless pet projects!

Smart

March 17th, 2012
2:28 pm

I am so sick of these politicians continuing to push spost after splost. Each and every one in the name saving old people, hiring police, building parks for children, and libraries to educate. Then what you get is new courthouse, new police stations etc,etc. Plus remember those of you who vote for these things…there is suppose to be money in our taxes to do this anyway, but when you blindly vote for another spost you free up money to give raises to gov’t employees and any other pet project the politicians can think of.

No New Taxes, EVER!

March 17th, 2012
2:29 pm

It is time for a neck tie party…….

MarkV

March 17th, 2012
2:50 pm

For the members of the flat earth scoiety:

The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (39,000 km2) which is only 0.42% of the U.S. map[9], or about half of the land area of Maine. This is less than 1⁄7 the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algae_fuel

Shine

March 17th, 2012
2:56 pm

No need for TSPLOST. Just add sales taxes to real property sales/transfers like we all have to pay on everything we buy. Buy a 4 million dollar house, building, farm, plantation, etc pay about 280,000 dollars or roughly the same 7% sales tax I have to pay when I buy ANYTHING!

Smart

March 17th, 2012
3:09 pm

Recently the legislators had a vote that would restrict them to spending money collected for very specific projects like dump cleanup and driver training. No. They wanted to spend this allocated money anyway they say fit. What?
Then I almost voted on what I thought was a very worthwhile project… Statewide Trauma Plans. Fortunately I was educated prior to voting that we were being asked to vote and there was no plan in place, no timeframe for the plan much less the project. Money collected that could be spend by politicians forever.
Now here comes the grandaddy of them all. T-Spost. Concepts. No Plans. Just collect money. Don’t worry. The politicians will use it wisely. Right!
Last point, as mentioned in the AJC recently….400 toll. Project paid for. Lets take the tollbooths down. No! The politicians can’t give up the money.
How much more does anyone need to fight this mess?????

Linda

March 17th, 2012
3:35 pm

“The Aquatic Species Program, launched in 1978, was a research program funded by the US Dept. of Energy…”
Another 34 years & billions of taxpayer dollars might do it!
What’s it all about, Algae?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRzCzr6Zalo&feature=related

JR in Mableton

March 17th, 2012
3:51 pm

So, what is the plan to improve our transportation system? I struggle to believe that the interchange at I-285 and I-20 is a pork project. It is a problem almost every day of the week. The same is true for GA 400 at I-285. I have lived in Cobb County for 20 years and have seen tremendous improvements that resulted from our SPLOST program. I can’t imagine what life would be like if Atlanta Rd, South Cobb Drive, and Hwy 120 were 2 lanes or if the East/West Connector or Silver Comet Trail did not exist. In addition, I am failing to understand the reasoning against the transit project. I know why we don’t have MARTA, and I would hate to believe that the same motives are behind the Tea Party’s agenda. Try discussing this matter based upon the issues. The name calling and red herring arguments are destructive and only serve to split our community. Debate the issue. Vote it up or down. Does it concern anyone that less than 10% of our population will make this decision? Can someone tell me why voting YES or NO is the best thing for Atlanta?

Linda

March 17th, 2012
3:53 pm

In ‘08, Obama’s energy secretary said he wanted to find a way to increase gas prices in the US to those in Europe, which were about $8 per gallon.
Recently, he testified to congress that the intent of the Obama adm. was NOT to bring down the price of gas. Oops!
To get re-elected & to bring “down” the price of gas quickly, the only trick the Obama adm. can come up with is to sell it by the quart.

Josh

March 17th, 2012
4:02 pm

Atlanta is an infrastructure and transportation city. We need to stay on top to keep the good jobs here and keep our property values up. No one likes more taxes, but this is one of the few where we will get our money’s worth. Everyone wants better transportation; we’ll get much more for our money when we we use our dollars locally though the T-SPLOST instead of hoping the bloated Federal Government will give us a couple dollars with hundreds of strings attached. Vote Yes on T-SPLOST!

MarkV

March 17th, 2012
4:29 pm

Isn’t it wonderful to have such energy experts on this blog, who know everything better than the specialists? Usually they are the same people, who ask where we would be if we had started more drilling 30 years ago (not realizing that we would be just about where we are), but they mock the new energy sources, which may take 30 years to develop to their full potential.

JohnnyReb

March 17th, 2012
4:45 pm

“….they are the same people, who ask where we would be if we had started more drilling 30 years ago (not realizing that we would be just about where we are)..”

You can’t be serious? Is that a new talking point from Obama?

Linda

March 17th, 2012
4:45 pm

Isn’t it wonderful to have such energy experts in the White House, who know everything better than the specialists? Usually they are the same people, who ask where we would be if we had started more drilling 30 years ago (not realizing that we would be energy independent, not worried about the Middle East & our national security, & have NO national debt), but they mock the proven energy sources, which we have used for decades while trying to develop alternatives to their full potential.

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JohnnyReb

March 17th, 2012
4:46 pm

So Josh – from your post we know you live North of I-20. Which side of town? Let me guess; West?