Archive for July, 2012

Ending the Ga. 400 tolls now isn’t a great idea

OK, I’m going to be the bad guy today. I’m going to be the only (according to my Twitter feed, anyway) person who thinks Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to end the toll on Ga. 400 by the end of next year, which he announced today, is a bad idea. (For the record, I pay the toll going and coming every workday.)

Coming 12 days before the T-SPLOST referendum, this is an obvious pander for “yes” votes. It’s a last-ditch attempt to save what would appear to be an expensive but failed campaign to pass the $7.2 billion tax. But I highly doubt it will be an effective one.

There is no doubt the broken promise to remove the 400 toll — broken in 2010 by lame-duck Gov. Sonny Perdue — is a huge driver of opposition to the T-SPLOST. It is one of the clearest examples of why trust in government is lacking. Deal addressed this issue in a press-release quote about removing the toll, saying “it is imperative that governments build the trust of their people.”

But I will be very surprised if many voters …

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How I’m voting on July 31

The July 31 primary is almost upon us, and early voting has already begun. It’s time to declare.

Not about the T-SPLOST. Not today.

Nor about contested elections. I make endorsements for elections I vote in, and my Buckhead district offers me no say in the races that are among this year’s most impressive (the State Senate 6th District fight among Josh Belinfante, Drew Ellenburg and Hunter Hill), most interesting (the fireworks-laden 9th Congressional District contest between Doug Collins and Martha Zoller) and most infuriating (the 12th Congressional District, where Republicans seem to be working to let John Barrow squeak out re-election despite a new, more GOP-friendly map).

There are, however, some non-binding ballot questions facing both Republican and Democratic voters in this election. Here’s how I plan to vote on the GOP questions:

1. Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?

No. Georgians aren’t well-served by expanding gambling at …

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Senate Dem leader: We’re taking the middle class hostage

Let it be noted that the first “hostage taker” reference in this year’s debate over extending the current income-tax rates should be applied to Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who made clear in a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution that she and other Democrats will make the middle class pay if they can’t raise taxes on “the rich.”

Murray is the fifth-ranking Senate Democrat, so I take her remarks seriously.

Here are the first two “key excerpts” from the speech as listed on a press release from Murray’s office (these and the entire speech are available here):

… if Republicans won’t work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal. Because I feel very strongly that we simply cannot allow middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans to bear this burden alone.

and

So if we can’t get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013 rather than lock in a …

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Poll: Who should be Mitt Romney’s running mate?

Consider this either a bonus “2012 Tuesday” or an extra “Poll Position” this week: Who should be Mitt Romney’s running mate?

With almost six weeks to go before the Republican National Convention, this feels too early for the “veepstakes” to be winding down and shortened to three serious candidates. But that’s what Reuters reported yesterday, saying Romney’s short list comprises Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

That means no Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan — bona fide GOP rock stars who would charge up the base but also draw heavy Democratic fire for various reasons.

Who should be Mitt Romney’s running mate?

  • Bobby Jindal
  • Tim Pawlenty
  • Rob Portman
  • Someone else

View Results

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Here’s a quick pro and con list for each of the three:

JINDALPros: In his second term as governor and has extensive experience for someone so young (he just turned 41); particular …

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2012 Tuesday: Polls show clear decline for T-SPLOST support (Updated)

Opinion polls for the presidential race, even when broken down by state, are too far out from Election Day to tell us very much. But the T-SPLOST referendum, which is just two weeks away? That’s different — and a few new polls show us where the momentum lies.

First, a Rosetta Stone Communications poll for Channel 2 Action News released last Friday showed the $7.2 billion tax for transportation projects trails 33 percent to 56 percent. That’s minus-23 percentage points, with just 12 percent saying they’re undecided. Here’s the trend for that poll, with the undecided share of the vote remaining constant:

MAY: minus-3 points (42 for, 45 against, 13 undecided)

JUNE: minus-11 points (38-49-13)

JULY: minus-23 points (33-56-12)

Net Change: minus-20 points

Next, internal polling for Untie Atlanta, the pro-tax campaign. The day after Channel 2 reported its May results, Untie Atlanta released an internal poll showing the measure was winning by 15 percentage points. Today, the campaign’s …

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Mr. President: When will ’somebody else’ build my business?

There was a lot of buzz over the weekend, stretching into today, about these remarks President Obama made during a campaign stop Friday in Roanoke, Va.:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

Well, that’s not so controversial, is it? I’ve had some success in my career in journalism, and I am in the habit of referring to the great teachers I had (in college and before), the great upbringing I got from my parents, and some favorable timing/circumstances along the way. Certainly, there are a lot of successful people who …

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Taking a look at some T-SPLOST claims

The closer we get to the July 31 T-SPLOST referendum, it seems, the more claims we hear from the pro-tax campaign about its supposed benefits. Here’s the low-down on four common claims made about the $7.2 billion tax and the 157 projects it would fund.

1. Metro Atlanta commuters already pay a “congestion tax” of $924 a year.

This figure, taken from a study by the Texas Transportation Institute, accounts for the cost of wasting fuel and time in traffic. T-SPLOST supporters argue this is an indirect “tax” on commuters, and that the 1 percent sales tax will mitigate it.

Perhaps. But they don’t acknowledge the average household stands to pay more if the T-SPLOST passes.

Commuters aren’t the only people who would pay the sales tax, so let’s look at households. Based on Census data about commuters (see page 29) and household size in the 10-county region, the household “congestion tax” would be $986 a year. A study by the Atlanta Regional Commission found the projects …

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Obama tramples welfare reform, rule of law

What is it about the rule of law that doesn’t agree with Barack Obama? When he thought the Supreme Court might throw out his namesake, signature health reform, he (falsely) lamented it “would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” But the president appears to have no compunctions about taking such a step himself.

Last month, it was a decision to partially stop applying immigration law. Yesterday, his administration neutered a key element of one of the signature moments from the Clinton administration: the 1996 welfare reform. As the Daily Caller’s Mickey Kaus puts it:

The guts of the 1996 welfare reform were a) welfare was ended as an “entitlement” (controlled by the feds) and transferred to the states, as a “block grant” subject to certain requirements; and b) one of those requirements was that a certain percentage of each state’s welfare caseload had to be working or preparing …

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Poll Position: Proper penalty in Penn State abuse scandal?

This week brought new revelations in one of the most shocking scandals to hit a university in some time: the sexual abuse of multiple children, over many years, by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. The new information, contained in a report released Thursday by former FBI director Louis Freeh that was commissioned by university trustees, details the lengths to which Penn State officials went to keep Sandusky’s actions from being made public — enabling him to prey on more young people for another 14 years.

From ESPN.com’s article about the report:

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” said [Freeh] …. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

After an eight-month inquiry, Freeh’s firm produced a 267-page report that concluded that Hall of Fame coach [Joe] …

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Medicaid expansion is a bad deal for Georgians

Amid the confusion about who won what in the Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling last month, there was one clear winner: the states.

When Georgia and a couple of dozen other states joined Florida’s lawsuit to overturn the 2010 health-care reform, they were contesting the part of the law that affected their governments: the Medicaid provisions. Obamacare called for expanding Medicaid to cover anyone earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level; it aimed to force states to go along with this plan by threatening to withhold current Medicaid funding if they didn’t acquiesce.

The states argued this coercion was unconstitutional, and seven of nine Supreme Court justices agreed with them. Instead of striking down the provision altogether, however, the court offered a remedy: Washington couldn’t take away what it’s now giving states for Medicaid, but states could choose whether to participate in the expansion.

That’s left some governors — including our own Nathan …

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