Your morning jolt: GOP lawmakers abandon November vote on transportation sales tax

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other Republican legislative leaders on Tuesday confirmed that they have abandoned plans to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would have paved the way for a sales tax directed at roads and rail.

Also finished: the two-year argument over whether to ask voters to approve a statewide tax for the purpose, or allow specific regions like metro Atlanta to levy the penny.

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen said that, while road and rail projects in Georgia remain in desperate need of additional and permanent funding, a statewide sales tax isn’t the answer. Nor did Keen think the measure would pass his chamber – as it did last year, when pushed by Speaker Glenn Richardson.

The November 2010 ballot has served as both a goal for lawmakers, and a cushion. Last year, House and Senate leaders pointed to the fact that they had one more session as one reason for not coming two terms.

Both Keen and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers doubted that any statewide referendum to permit a sales tax for transportation, no matter how preliminary, would be approved by voters – given the current economy.

Neither lawmaker mentioned another dynamic that has entered the Republican political picture: A tea party movement that could generate July primary opposition for some GOP lawmakers, should the measure be characterized as a Legislature-imposed tax increase.

As an alternative, Republican lawmakers think they may be able to find a way – through statute – to permit counties (read “metro Atlanta”) to band together to create tax districts and hold separate referendums to levy taxes.

That appears to look somewhat like the position pushed during the past two legislative sessions by Cagle and the Senate. Language in any measure would have to allow a sales tax to be in place for more than five years, if it is to be applied to MARTA or other commuter rail.

But Democrats (and some Republicans) question whether creation of new tax districts by statute would be constitutional. “I don’t see how it would be,” said Senate Democratic Leader Robert Brown of Macon.

A simple statute, of course, would only need a majority vote, as opposed to the two-thirds required by a constitutional amendment.

Gov. Sonny Perdue may address the topic in his state-of-the-state address this morning.

In today’s Savannah Morning News, Larry Peterson makes this point:

Roy Barnes backed a 2000 law that let him raise almost an additional $1.6 million more last year for his ongoing campaign for governor.

The measure lifted the old lid of $1,000 on contributions in non-election years; it’s now $6,100 per election, regardless of the year.

The former Democratic governor reported last week that he raised $2.7 million during the second half of 2009.

Not counting contributions by himself and his wife, he listed 530 donations of more than $1,000, totaling $2,102,003.74.

Under the old law, they would have been limited to a total of no more than $530,000 — or $1,000 each.

The (now) re-election organization of Secretary of State Brian Kemp claims to be the first statewide campaign to have a ground game in all 159 Georgia counties.

Click here to see the Kemp list.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

43 comments Add your comment

Road Scholar

January 13th, 2010
8:46 am

Here we go again on the lack of attention to transportation, and so the legislators can get reelected! Self serving idiots! So much for a jobs program that works! Let alone addressing the state’s future!


January 13th, 2010
8:59 am

WTF? Seriously! What record do these people have to run on? They have done NOTHING to address the most serious problems facing the state, other than kick the can down the road and say ‘we’ll get it done next year!’ Well its next year, and the seats aren’t even warm in the Capital and they’re already saying they won’t do anything to address transportation.

If the voters don’t want the tax, they won’t vote for it. At least give us the option. This can’t be the limited government that republicans speak of. Let me decide if I want to tax myself a penny so that I don’t have to be stuck on the connector all Friday afternoon.

Why I like Marta...

January 13th, 2010
9:06 am

I get to live almost in the burbs away from the city of Atlanta mess and only have to drive a few miles to the Doraville station. Get to nap all the way back and fourth to downtown for work each day for only a couple of bucks!


January 13th, 2010
9:13 am

While the lack of initiative is disheartening, I’m glad the state-wide tax is being shot down. All it would do is pad the coffers of the status quo – meaning more metro dollars leaving the metro area to pave back-woods highways.

We’re so screwed.

Atlanta Shrugged anyone?


January 13th, 2010
9:18 am

Watch as states like North Carolina, who do fund their transportation infrastructure, zoom past Atlanta economically. Atlanta is in the first stages of death, choking to death on traffic and pollution, due to the inattention of our state leaders.

“State leaders” is a term applied very loosely in GA.

Business after business will either decide to relocate elsewhere or simply wither.

Warrior and Mom

January 13th, 2010
9:27 am

Maybe Roy can change our flag back, so Ga can move forward.

Got Stomach

January 13th, 2010
9:32 am

Careful Why I Like MARTA, the state law makers are itching to get their hand around MARTA’s throat and stangle it. Pay attention. Pay close attention. Oxendine has already firing a warning shot to take the airport and put it under the authority of a stste agency.

Bloggist Formerly Known as RJ

January 13th, 2010
9:41 am

So-called transportation initiative suffers from the confluence of two premises: realistic view that no one would vote for more taxes given the economic climate; and the selfish, short-sighted desire to get reelected.

Our democratic republic system of government is not working. Vast majority of politicians are corrupt to the core, only in office to take money to grant favors to stay in office. (The few honest ones can’t fight the tide– and very few Mr. Smiths are going to Washington or the Legislature of the great state of Georgia anyway.) An occasional crumb falls from the table for the hungry masses, but only enough to placate the same.

Still say the best system of government in the world is a benevolent dictatorship. (Problem, of course, is the adjectival part of that equation…) Revolution, anyone?


January 13th, 2010
9:50 am

I think the metro area should secede from the State and let the rest of this pathetic state go to h_ll where it belongs.

On transportation funding | Kyle Wingfield

January 13th, 2010
10:03 am

[...] AJC’s Jim Galloway brings word this morning that there won’t be a statewide referendum this fall on a penny sales tax to fund [...]

Logical Dude

January 13th, 2010
10:10 am

I guess it’s time to leave the state. It is quite apparent that the government of this state cares not for the people. They would rather scratch their own backs than make the bold (and correct) decision regarding the future of the state, and the common sense funding of transit.
It is VERY difficult to see how these elected ones can continuously delay and delay and delay. . . we’ll do it next year. . . we’ll do it after the election. . . can’t do it just now. . . economy is tough, next year. . .

W Tecumseh Sherman

January 13th, 2010
10:17 am

It should be constitutional for Metro Atlanta to fund a transportation Super District. Afterall it was legal for Rep. David Schaffer to amend the law to create Service Districts that are allowed to keep all the collected revenue to itself.

Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, Douglas, Clayton, Fayette and Dekalb let’s vote to save the state or vote to sucede and watch the yonderlands diminish without our money.

Wheres that change at?

January 13th, 2010
10:27 am

Go ahead and suceed from the state. You will do so without water because its all in Hall County lololol.

You know its about taxes and raising them and these representatives dont want to put more strain on people who are already hurting. I just dont get it with some of you. You yell when they raise taxes and then you yell when they decide not to raise taxes. Quite frankly, marta is not a good business, they run in the red and they have quite a nice budget to run off of. They need to look at the waist in their organization.

As far as Ozidine, you might want to look at what he has set for Georgia. He will bring jobs and tax cuts to georgia while Barns will again attach the teachers and people in general. Dont forget how well liked Barns and his political visions were liked before he left office. I know a lot of teachers and educators that would rather he just leave the state altogether.

James D

January 13th, 2010
10:28 am

The Metro area is inhabited by 4 million of the state’s 6 million total. This area pays 75% of the states taxes. Without the metro area the rural parts of the state would be completely poor. No school funds, roads, and on and on. The rural areas do not want to be tax for improvement in transit because the metro area would take the majority of the money. Sorry, but without improvements in the transit system metro ATL will be left behind and the rural areas would collapse.

Sick of Republicans

January 13th, 2010
10:29 am

Folks – Republicans don’t care about people like us and will never vote for anything that benefits us. They cater to the affluent. Gee Sonny even wants to penalize our teachers more, making them take more unpaid days. MARTA is a necessity for many people but these Legislators could care less. I’m a retired person on fixed income but would gladly pay a penny more in sales tax to get public transportation up to where it should be but also firmly believe that Gwinnett and other counties who use the system should also pay their fair share.

Jim Callihan

January 13th, 2010
10:45 am

Also buzzing around the state…to which I inquired to the (alleged) offender:

Dear Senator John Douglas,
There is a claim circulating all over the State about a comment grotesquely expressing a “bass-ackwards” understanding of the State-to-Nation relationship, being attributed to you, Sir.

The “quote” in question:
“The state is the servant of the Federal Government.”

Did you make make this statement? If so, please explain the context in which it was given or remove yourself from office as unfit to serve the CITIZENS OF THE GREAT STATE OF GEORGIA!

Oh Intown Writer...

January 13th, 2010
11:12 am

To “Where’s the Change At” :
You stated, accidental spelling typo included:
“Marta is not a good business, they run in the red and they have quite a nice budget to run off of. They need to look at the waist in their organization.”
NOT their own incompetence.
The Legislature has mandated 50% for infrastructure development – which led Marta down the path of being yet another intown developer (Linburg Plaza area, etc). Now they have no operating funds, and the State, along w/Miss Chambers, cares not to correct that issue.
Meanwhile, Dear Ox wants to build a tunnel under intown, the goose that laid the golden egg, with WHAT money?, whilst the Fed funds sitting on the table for the Lovejoy train (read consulting JOBS) fast slips away.
Apparently getting and retaining high paying high skilled jobs is rocket science for the Legislature. But, not a surprise, since most of those folks graduated from GEORGIA SCHOOLS….

Cesspool of the South

January 13th, 2010
11:21 am

Georgia seems to be dying a slow death. I don’t know what made it so successful before (my guess would be being the ONLY major city in the South) but now that there are competitors, Georgians really seem to be behind the curve. Don’t get me wrong, Georgia probably won’t implode like California, but North Carolina will certainly leave Georgia in it’s dust like Texas already has (Alabama may also siphon some businesses).


January 13th, 2010
11:22 am

To “Wheres that change at?” (sic)

If you don’t want the penny tax, then don’t vote it. It’s that simple. The Legislature didn’t shoot down the tax. They shot down our CHANCE to vote for it.

We’re being denied the opportunity to vote. How are you ok with that?

I love it when hardcore GOP’ers talk about being the party of personal responsibility, but then support governements who make decisions for the people.

Highway to Hell

January 13th, 2010
11:28 am


What on Earth are you talking about? Have you not read the news lately? Georgia is still attracting new businesses and tourist attractions almost weekly. What does NC have? Charlotte? And Alabama? B-ham? Honestly? Texas you have a point but that really isn’t a fair comparison because they have oil and gas. Georgia may hit a few bumps on the road but we are definitely still on the up and up.


January 13th, 2010
11:37 am

We need a leader who is willing to fight the tough fight and lead Georgia into the 21st century – Karen Handel. She has a proven track record of success at Fulton County and as the SoS. She can get things done.


January 13th, 2010
11:39 am

My man Ox has already proposed a solution to the problem, extend GA 400 through Atlanta.

DJ Sniper

January 13th, 2010
11:41 am

I swear to God, this state gets more backwards every day I live here. Our elected officials seem hellbent on NOT improving public transportation in this city at all. Traffic is completely choking the lifeblood out of this city, but our officials want to build more roads, which will only attract more drivers, and the cycle will continue. I want to know what drugs Ken Oxendine was smoking when he proposed an underground tunnel that would run through Midtown or whatever area they talked about. Who in their right mind thought this was a good idea???? And let’s not talk about the $90 million that we got approved for back when Roy Barnes was still in office, yet Sonny Perdue did absolutely nothing with it. Georgia is becoming a laughing stock among other states who actually have a clue about how to improve public transportation.

As much as I want to blame our elected officials for this, there is also plenty of blame to go around for the citizens who live here. Other counties like Cobb, Gwinnett, and Forsyth have rejected MARTA in the past because they didn’t want the “criminal element” from Atlanta coming into their areas. Do these people think that their counties are completely crime free? Gwinnett is home to one of the largest drug operations in the Southeast, but people are worried about criminals from Atlanta? Give me a break!

Between this issue and the intense debate about where we can carry guns, this state is headed downhill fast.


January 13th, 2010
12:08 pm

Kick the can down the road.Business as usual.

James W.

January 13th, 2010
12:15 pm

Don’t worry, when the people of Georgia get enough of services being cut because of no tax revenue coming in as a result of jobs leaving Georgia hopeful they will wake up and vote these GOP/non action representitives out of office. How could they ignore the transportation issue which is one one the prime issues the state and mainly metro Atlanta faces right now.


January 13th, 2010
12:44 pm

Why has the city not closed the city streets like many European, and major us cities have in the downtown areas to make them pedestrian only, except for residents that live in prox of the closed zone.
I would love to see it done all around the state capitol! Make Marta the only option…..,or just have to work on all of the sewers at one time, unannounced, all around the capitol! For that matter, toll the exits in the area…If they want war lets play dirty pool too!!!!!

I'm Not A Believer

January 13th, 2010
12:48 pm

You know, I really hate to say this because I am a lifelong Georgian but, those dumb a$$e$ working (and I use that term very loosely) for the people in the Georgia State Capital don’t have a clue. I say….vote all the bums out as quickly as possible and start over… couldn’t be any worse.


January 13th, 2010
12:49 pm

since transportation is not as bad outside urban areas, rural legislators see no urgency. urban legislators split amongst the 2 parties need to come together and attack the problem. time to end rural dominance of general assembly.


January 13th, 2010
12:50 pm

I think that it is interesting that when Atlanta has a problem the entire state shoud deal with it but when money is needed elsewhere we get crap like this from Angus “All it would do is pad the coffers of the status quo – meaning more metro dollars leaving the metro area to pave back-woods highways.” NICE.


January 13th, 2010
1:04 pm

Folks, there may be a silver lining here. What if it’s true that it DOESN’T require a constitutional amendment to allow local governments to hold referendums to levy a transportation sales tax?

Think about it: if that’s true, then we’re much better off. The assumption had been that we first had to have a statewide vote (this fall) to amend the state constitution to allow such local referendums, and then, in 2011 or 2012, the actual local referendums would be held, meaning that nothing could get started till 2013 or 2014. If an amendment is NOT required, then (a) we don’t need a statewide vote, in which a lot of people just vote against anything with the word “tax” in it; and (b) we could hold the local votes as soon as this fall, and presumably get started a year or two sooner on commuter rail, light rail, etc.

The legal question is not an easy one. It’s not my area of expertise, so I will have to defer to lawyers who practice in that area (regulation of counties and municipal corporations by the state constitution). The Georgia Constitution is a long and detailed document, much longer than the US Constitution. I look forward to finding out.


January 13th, 2010
1:09 pm

Yo “Wheres that change at?”

Lake Lanier may be in Hall County, but you don’t have the right to use it as drinking water reservoir. Or perhaps you’ve not been paying attention?

The City of Atlanta water system –which is the biggest in the state — gets its water from the Chattahoochee, not Lanier. And as a prior user it is allowed to take its water from the Hooch. Atlanta is also building an additional drinking water reservoir with Beltline funding.

Assuming Perdue continues to do nothing, Hall and Gwinnett Counties will have to reduce their water intake from Lake Lanier back to 1970 era levels. That’s what the Judge ordered, in case you haven’t been paying attention.

That’s called infrastructure planning. Something that the City of Atlanta seems to be able to do, but that Gwinnett and Hall Counties, and the State of Georgia cannot seem to understand.

Y’all are pretty good at bashing gays and trying to keep black folks from voting though. Keep up the good work.


January 13th, 2010
1:21 pm

@Paul – Atlanta taxpayers put far more into the coffers of the state then they take out. A 2009 Georgia State study found that metro Atlanta gives more than it gets: The 10 metro counties contribute 51 percent of the state’s tax revenues and get 37 percent of its spending.


January 13th, 2010
1:40 pm

The state should help Marta. Every other states does this for the public transportation system. Our legislature is useless to metro Atlanta. So let’s just let Georgia become a ghetto. Move over Mississippi and Lousiana. Make space for the new southern ghetto.


January 13th, 2010
1:46 pm

Former Bloggist: No. As Churhill said, “Democracty is the worst possible form of government, with the exception of all other possible forms of governemtn.” With all its flaws, it’s still the best hope of mankind.


January 13th, 2010
2:07 pm

@ Jon – thanks.

@ Paul – sorry, if I offended you. I really have no gripe with rural Georgia. But the fact is, more of my money goes to rural Georgia than it does metro Atlanta. And pardon my ignorance, but when has Atlanta ever had the choice of whether or not to help rural Georgia?


January 13th, 2010
3:00 pm

Warrior and Mom…..the Rebel flag has nothing to do with this issue….get your head out the gutter.

Atlanta is the only state in the country that has mass transit yet does not support it…why? They blame funding yet Chicago, New York, California, and others have funding. Seems to me the bone heads we have elected not only have destroyed the educational system but also transportation….The FEDS..should take it over so something can be done…..I cant wait to see how bad traffic will be when the toll HOV lanes are enacted…..I lived in Miami when they were first installed a year ago and it was catastrophic. No one was educated on how the lanes would end on which exits and boundaries that couldnt be broken. Now Miami’s traffic is destroyed. Atlanta is soon to follow.

Bloggist Formerly Known as RJ

January 13th, 2010
3:51 pm


Am a big fan of Churchill. The actual quote is, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Somehow believe he might update that saying given the state of affairs some 60 years later. Am certain he would have choice words for our current crop of politicians.


January 13th, 2010
4:20 pm

The reason those of us in Cobb and others won’t support MARTA is that it is a financial disaster. MARTA wanted us to join MARTA, but would not spend money in Cobb for about 5 years (same with Gwinette). The State needs to make a Metro Transit Authority that includes the 13 metro counties, roll MARTA, Cobb, Gwinette, Clayton and other’s transit system into it. (This was the way mass transit was improved in Houston about 25 years ago) It should have a board from the area, NOT JUST inside the loop. As long as MARTA only thinks about inside the loop, it won’t get help from others. We have to spend our money to provide transit services in our areas, that are outside the loop. The STATE DOT needs to change so money is allocated and spent where it is needed in the state, not equally divided across the DOT Districts as it is today. Remember the independent DOT fired the Director last year because she supported Sonny’s effort to change the way it works. What is the status of the current investigation of the way the DOT’s finances are handled. Remember, until recently, the rural areas of the state controlled the Legislature and how things are done, so what we have is before the Metro area exploded.


January 13th, 2010
4:37 pm

Yes, “confused” indeed. MARTA’s finances would be fine if it was allowed to use its share of sales tax revenue, instead of the outdated rule that 50% of that $ must go to capital expense (a rule which made sense when the rail system was being built, but not now).

MARTA has never thought only “inside the loop” – the initial design was premised on several counties joining. Had the planners known that Cobb & Gwinnett would opt out, they would have designed a different system (more of a city subway).

Counties not currently with MARTA DO have seats on the MARTA board, oddly enough. And I like the idea of the state just declare a metro transit authority with 10 or 13 counties in it (as long as the legislature and the DOT don’t have a vote). Are you suggesting they do this, without a referendum???


January 13th, 2010
8:40 pm

And here’s where are impotent leaders attack GDOT again, because we’re not doing enough. How can you do anything when your broke and who made us broke? Sonny and Gena, hes doing his best to kill the DOT before he gets out of office. Also “confused” try to remember, only 7 cents goes to the DOT from something that was set in the ground over 30 years ago, it has never gone up It should be about 30 cents most states are.. Quit blaming the DOT for the leaders are the ones that have caused ALL the problems. You attack DOT your attacking Georgia Tech because most of the engineers are GA Tech grads and they have SOME GREAT IDEAS but the State of GA has NO MONEY, not bcause of DOT because the leaders in power, including Purdue, Barnes, etc….. Till People realize you have to pay for the infranstructure to grow it will not change. Health, schools, growth all down the line, Nothing grows till you fix the roads their on.

[...] Atlanta state lawmakers abandon push to raise sales tax to pay for transport (AJC Blogs) [...]


January 14th, 2010
9:13 am

Extremely sad and disturbing– how much longer will folks continue to vote for these buffons–
Metro Atlanta… Democrats and Republicans MUST come together to support an urban/ suburban agenda or watch the sate slowly wither from lack of attention by no-nothing rural intersts–
the tail really is wagging the dog in this case…

[...] GOP lawmakers abandon November vote on transportation sales tax [...]