On moving the date of the 2012 transportation tax vote

It is not uncommon for civic leaders and politicians to push tax referendums into isolated corners of the calendar.

Manipulating a small election — turning out supporters through phone banks and advertising — is easier than trying to shape the outcome of a large one. Cheaper, too.

Anti-tax forces liken the practice to judge-shopping. It drives them nuts.

So this sudden talk about shifting next year’s regional votes on a transportation sales tax from the July 31 primaries to the larger November general election seems counterintuitive.

But the idea is gaining steam, as supporters come to realize that next summer’s voters — especially those in metro Atlanta — are likely to be throwing one large tea party. And are unlikely to approve a $6 billion, 10-year sales tax for road and rail improvements.

One of the major proponents of moving the date is Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. “We really have one opportunity to pass this referendum. If you check the data, higher voter turnout improves the chances of success,” he said in an interview. “In a referendum where your best election model gives you a 2 to 3 percent win, I believe that everything that you can do to add to that possibility you need to do.”

He’ll raise the topic with state lawmakers next month, when they gather at the state Capitol to redraw Georgia’s political boundaries. The Legislature would have to approve the shift — though it wouldn’t be able to act until its January session.

So far, ranking state lawmakers we’ve talked to are open to the move.

Here’s the situation: Aside from the presidential election, next year is something of a political desert for Georgia. No U.S. Senate race, no contest for governor or any other statewide office — other than two spots on the state Public Service Commission.

With the possible exception of the contest between U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta and former Fulton County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson, Democrats will have little reason to turn out in force July 31.

Rather, the biggest contest will be a Republican free-for-all for the new 14th Congressional District, likely to be placed somewhere northeast of Gwinnett County.

Candidates will be talking to the most conservative elements of the GOP — who aren’t likely to vote yes when it comes to the transportation tax. The new congressional district and the 10 counties that make up the metro Atlanta transportation tax zone may not overlap — but they will share the same media market.

Then there’s Cobb County. In March, this very Republican county approved an extension of a 1-cent special option local sales tax by a mere 79 votes. “I think that was very instructive for us,” Reed said.

For the transportation sales tax to carry in metro Atlanta, proponents don’t have to win Cobb. But they do need to split it.

Last week, Tim Lee, chairman of the Cobb County Commission, proposed the first tax increase in years — necessary, he said, to maintain the county’s police and fire services. He’ll face at least one challenger in next year’s GOP primary — former Commission Chairman Bill Byrne.

Politically, Byrne has not fared well since his unsuccessful 2002 run for governor. But he still has a following in Cobb — and intends to campaign against both Lee and the transportation tax next year.

In 2008, Georgia’s July primary drew nearly 900,000 voters. The November presidential contest between Barack Obama and John McCain drew nearly 4 million — a figure largely fueled by African-American voters who are also likely to return in November 2012 in large numbers.

A poll last month by 20/20 Insight Polling showed only 33 percent support for the transportation sales tax in metro Atlanta. But among those who think the country is on the right track — Obama supporters would make up the greatest number of this group — support for the transportation tax rose to 55 percent.

The problem that some supporters of the transportation sales tax have with a November vote is the cost. More voters require more messaging — and noise from the presidential contest will be deafening.

“I think those are reasonable and fair concerns. But we really have no Plan B for this,” Reed said. “It took us four years to even get to the referendum. We’re not going to have a second bite at the apple.”

A July vote is likely to require a $4 million campaign, the mayor said. A November campaign would burn $6 million.

Not much difference when placed against $6 billion in potential road-and-rail revenue. But ask any professional fundraiser. In this economy, $2 million is still a significant number.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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61 comments Add your comment

Bob

July 13th, 2011
6:08 pm

After all these years, why do we suddenly need a special sales tax for transportation? With gas (road use) taxes at an all time high, can’t we funded needed improvements with what was intended? I’m thinking we have a spending problem rather than a revenue problem…just my opinion.

Little Engine

July 13th, 2011
6:27 pm

@ Bob, The budget for GA counting federal match has dropped from 2.2 billion to 850 million. This is due to Sonny’s change of accounting methods. Our bridges are increasingly rated substandard in safety reviews. One estimate is over 1,000 in dire need of repair. This was one of Sonny’s less than stellar moves.

bo

July 13th, 2011
6:36 pm

Bob,

The gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993.

findog

July 13th, 2011
6:54 pm

Doesn’t matter what date they set it for I’ll be sure to vote against it. I will never again vote for a measly little extra penny tax even if it is for Jesus’ airfare. They have my property taxes, they have my income taxes, and they get my fuel tax every time I fill up. Whenever I buy anything the state hits me for four cents and the county adds a percent for schools, another for parks and roads. This is only happening because our republican controlled state government went to Grover and he said this is the only way that he would let them get the money we need for transportation. Our elected leaders have become addicted to these penny taxes in lieu of real budgets and we must do what’s right for them and help them quit.

bo

July 13th, 2011
7:04 pm

I’ve vote for it only if it was solely for transit and bike/ped. The highway projects on the list should be funded by the normal mechanism, not an additional tax. Transit doesn’t get any funding from the gas tax like highways do.

Angus

July 13th, 2011
7:26 pm

Take that $4 or $6 mil and do something useful with it – this tax ain’t happening.

tom H

July 13th, 2011
7:33 pm

The legislature voted a few years ago to increase the weight limit for log trucks even though the DOT told them this would require that most of the bridges be rebuilt to accomodate this increased weight. This bill was requested by a legislature from crisp county who was in the logging business. The pay-off: After the passage and approval by the governor, this legislator changed parties. Democrat to republican. Since then bridges have been rebuilt all over southwest georgia, probably diverting funds from more needy projects. So Why should anyone vote to increase taxes to cover this type of nonsense?

td

July 13th, 2011
7:47 pm

Tax every 18 wheeler coming through the state a user fee. They do it all the time up north. Then they will either go around GA or pay for road improvements. Either way it is a win win for the taxpayers.

findog

July 13th, 2011
7:55 pm

td used the t word instead of user fee

Obama

July 13th, 2011
8:50 pm

Fulton County votes no!!!!

WillieRae

July 13th, 2011
8:55 pm

I might vote for the transit tax bit will NOT renew the penny for the schools. This is the only wy to get their attention.

Gyo-oolly

July 13th, 2011
9:08 pm

why do we have any taxes? let’s do without government. think of all the money we’d save. we could all hire private people to do what little government does – like everybody on a street could pay a guy to keep people from breaking into their homes. if he doesn’t do his job, they could pay some guy to be judge… wait, no then they’d have to pay several people to be a jury… oh, that wouldn’t work. guess they could just beat him up and hope he doesn’t come back with more guys with guns. everybody could get together on the weekends and fill potholes so they can drive to work during the week — there wouldn’t be any speed limits – great. but the roads’re so bad they can’t go fast anyway. without regulation to allow for power lines houses wouldn’t have electricity so people in the south wouldn’t have to worry about overcrowding.
enough already. simple living. just have to figure out what to do with the bad folks, old folks, foreign folks and the places who have government who want what we have. don’t worry about paying for anyone’s airfare, let alone Jesus. The only thing flying will be fists and bullets.

gooolllly!

July 13th, 2011
9:09 pm

why do we have any taxes? let’s do without government. think of all the money we’d save. we could all hire private people to do what little government does – like everybody on a street could pay a guy to keep people from breaking into their homes. if he doesn’t do his job, they could pay some guy to be judge… wait, no then they’d have to pay several people to be a jury… oh, that wouldn’t work. guess they could just beat him up and hope he doesn’t come back with more guys with guns. everybody could get together on the weekends and fill potholes so they can drive to work during the week — there wouldn’t be any speed limits – great. but the roads’re so bad they can’t go fast anyway. without regulation to allow for power lines houses wouldn’t have electricity so people in the south wouldn’t have to worry about overcrowding.
enough already. simple living. just have to figure out what to do with the bad folks, old folks, foreign folks and the places who have government who want what we have. don’t worry about paying for anyone’s airfare, let alone Jesus. The only thing flying will be fists and bullets.

Josh Bales

July 13th, 2011
9:22 pm

@ td “Tax every 18 wheeler coming through the state a user fee. They do it all the time up north. Then they will either go around GA or pay for road improvements. Either way it is a win win for the taxpayers.”

You do realize that every 18 wheeler that goes through Georgia or any other state pays to the hilt as it is. Trucking companies pay for every mile traveled through every state, and they also pay additional taxes through IFTA agreements.

Higher taxes aren’t the answer. Companies don’t pay taxes in the end, consumers do. Companies merely pass the taxes paid along through prices that consumers pay. Doing what you suggest is going to cause you to pay more for the products that you purchase.

The fact is that most states have been misappropriating road money for years, spending money that was meant for roads on other pet projects. If money that was meant for roads was only spent on roads we wouldn’t have a problem.

cubby

July 13th, 2011
9:58 pm

You know what people wake up, Atlanta roads are horrible and the only way they are going to be fixed is by spending money. For years now we have neglected what needs to be done. If we don’t fix the roads and improve our infrastructure we will have big business moving out of Atlanta not into Atlanta. I would be in favor of the sales tax being even higher if it would guarantee that we would get what we are paying for. YOU DON’T GET SOMETHING FOR NOTHING!!!!!!!!

Mr. KnowitAll

July 13th, 2011
10:18 pm

The metro area send MILLION$ to the state DOT. If we pass this additional tax, the state DOT will do NOTHING for metro roads. Their position will be: “If it’s that important to you, pay for it yourself!”.

The DOT will take the money we send them and spend it on some vote buying scheme where they DIDN’T pass the T-SPLOST.

Mr. Don'tKnowitAll

July 13th, 2011
10:34 pm

@Mr. KnowitAll – If you knew anything about this you would know that this tax would be self imposed on the 10 county Metro Atlanta region. These 10 counties collect the penny sales tax, and each penny of it stays within that 10 county limit. This isn’t a statewide tax where money in Atlanta goes down south. Money collected in the metro area will stay here.

Also, choose a better name next post. You don’t know it all.

Alabama Communist

July 13th, 2011
10:34 pm

It would be lot more easy if the Mayor declared himself a dictator like the Republicans do when it comes to stoping taxing the super rich and Wall Street……

Jim

July 13th, 2011
11:06 pm

They lost my vote when the 400 toll was extended.

MattMD

July 14th, 2011
12:37 am

Atlanta should vote ‘no’ unless something is to be done about our sales tax rate? What, are we really expected to pay 9% sales tax in this second-tier city?

MattMD

July 14th, 2011
12:38 am

I agree, this tax ain’t happening.

S

July 14th, 2011
2:58 am

What we need is Light Rail, going North, South, East and West. We do not need more roads, more roads brings more cars..as in build it and they will come. My vote will be NO if Light Rail is not on the list of to do’s.

bee b

July 14th, 2011
4:09 am

I will vote no. Who in their right mind will vote for a tax w/no light rail or buses especially for south side? The south side will be nothing. Remember the promise (lie) on the GA 400 toll.

bug

July 14th, 2011
4:27 am

Again you have failed to state the facts.

Twenty five percent of this tax is going to the counties for bigger govenment because the counties know if they raise taxes they will get voted out.

Ga Values

July 14th, 2011
6:30 am

Most of this money will be stole by you know who, I’ll be voting NO for waste & corruption.

Tom E. Gunn

July 14th, 2011
6:56 am

Vote NO vote NO vote No! This is not the way. The system is failing! Greed has driven us to this problem, and feeding the adicts habit will not get us out of it. Where was the zoning and planning as the state was growing and expanding? It went out the window to line the developers pockets, who were lining the politicians pockets. just check and see how many office holders made money off real estate, you will be shocked. Vote no, and while you are at it VOTE OUT!

DagnyT

July 14th, 2011
7:52 am

If this plan was bold or visionary, I would consider it, even though I am still fuming over the GA 400 lie. The fact is this is a housekeeping wish list; widen this, pave that, add sidewalks here and there. This isn’t bold, such as extending Marta Rail up 75 and 85, or making 285 double decker. It’s simply projects that should already be in the normal course of business. I vote NO in July or November.

Matt

July 14th, 2011
8:38 am

Hahahah waste and corruption. A state with 400 billion and the state government takes around 17 billion in tax revenue of that.

Thats about 4.25% of the Georgia economy.

The federal government over the past 60 years has averaged 18-20% of the total GDP in tax revenue. The past 2 years the federal government has taken 14-16% of GDP in tax revenue.

Now for the math wizards this means that every year for 60 years the US government whether the economy is in recession or depression or booming takes around 18-20% of the pie.

Until now. because taxes are lower than they have ever been. the number of loopholes are greater than they have ever been. it doesnt bother me that I pay far less than my grandparents and less than my parents ever had to.

But I am not ignorant enough to say taxes are too high when less people pay taxes than they ever have and the government takes less of the GDP than they have in the past 40-60 years.

How can taxes be too high if the governments are taking less as a percentage than they ever have? It cant be the recession or the bad economy because we are talking an AVERAGE. That means whether the economy is at 5 trillion GDP or 13 trillion GDP the government took 18-20%. (and actually GDP has increased this year) but we are taking 14-16% of the pie because taxes are lower than they have ever been.

A Conservative Voice

July 14th, 2011
8:59 am

Yeah, something’s wrong……go over to S. Carolina…..gas there is .18 to .22 cents cheaper than here and we still don’t have enough? Look, I haven’t talked with anyone who’s gonna vote for this tax increase and my opinion is, it will be trampled into the ground, no matter when it’s voted on, never to return. We don’t need any more taxes, we do need to take care and spend what we do take in in a more prudent manner. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

gooolllly!

July 14th, 2011
9:07 am

Penny wise and pound foolish these ones who can’t stop the anti gov’t/anti-tax mantra. Asphalt has a useful life of 10 years after which the cost to resurface becomes much the same and starting from scratch on dirt. The 600+ (yes, you read that right) municipal governments in Georgia have had multitudes of state responsibilities shoved down on them by legislatures sworn to “no taxes”. Local governments are closest to the people and hear from them when the services they want aren’t provided. As a result of all of this cost shifting by legislators, local roads in Georgia are near crisis stage. Money has to be put on the problem. Our money. Yes. Taxes. It’s been a while, but here’s guessing paving a road costs about $500000 per mile (could be more today). Just to give you an idea, the recently created City of Milton in North Fulton County has over 170 miles of roads.
Do the nattering nabobs of negativism have children who drive? Would they want them to hit a crumbling shoulder and meet disaster? Oh, they’d probably blame government.

WE have lost our way

July 14th, 2011
9:07 am

I will vote NO for three reasons.#1 Giving that much money to one oversight agency in state government is like asking the fox to watch the hen house!Remember 400 promise!!! #2 This is nothing but another stimulus package to increase jobs in our area.It will go on and on forever and never go away.#3 If it was total funding of MASS transit around the metro area or Rail system to Athens and Savannah or Columbus,I might consider it if it was total funded with private funds.

transportation expert

July 14th, 2011
9:07 am

@Mr. Know It All, state code actually requires that the GA Dept of Transportation spend the same amount in every Congressional District. Half of the Congressional Districts lie fully or partially in the metro area, which means half of those dollars get spent in the metro area. They aren’t necessarily shipped off to South GA like you think…

Monroe Burbank

July 14th, 2011
9:19 am

Go ahead and vote no for the tax, and keep sitting in your hours-long, 6-lane wide bumper to bumper commutes to work every morning. Remember back in the 80s when Gwinnett County residents continually voted down any referendum to extend Marta into Gwinnett because it would allow “too many undesirables from downtown” to travel to their white Nirvanna?

Georgians have never been known for their foresight, and never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. You people deserve what you got.

E. Ruffin

July 14th, 2011
9:25 am

I got news for the transportation cretins who want to manipulate the vote……..the anti-tax Tea Partiers and anti-tax others will still be around in November. NO NEW TAXES. It’s a joke, the government at all levels is awash with money, they need some Econ 101 courses, not ‘new revenue.’

Marshall

July 14th, 2011
9:29 am

Methinks Bob is correct. Waste,waste,waste!

Matt

July 14th, 2011
9:32 am

We have 120 billion in transportation projects in a crumbling state infrastructure and we just dont want to improve it.

We would rather submit to mediocrity. Lets wait till humans beings stop being corrupt is all I hear.

Foolishness. We can only try the best we can unless we decide to just give up because human beings are corrupt and make errors and problems occur.

All I hear from people who want to vote no is ” Not until they do it right not until perfection occurs. Too much waste too much inefficiency.

You know why the private sector doesn’t throw themselves into making roads and transit? Because they dont make money. They are a total sum loss game. This is why governments do take care of infrastructure.

In the 1960s private industry said the internet was a total sum loss game. They wouldnt invest, they wouldnt inovate and they wouldnt take the time to build it.

Instead the government spent billions over 30 years and helped to initiate an entirely new way of communication, commerce and economic growth. Misteps along the way overspending and waste occurred. but the end results is a 4 trillion dollar boost to our economy and growth because we spent on something the private sector thought was non viable.

Roads and transit in themselves NEVER come out profitable. But the people and goods and services they transport grow our economy.

To neglect this is to say you do not care about the economy and growth of this state.

So be it. Just give a big middle finger to freedom and opportunity in the name of saving 1% of your dollar now which will HAVE to be spent as 3% or 4% of your dollar in the future.

Fools deserve what they get.

In Christs parable you are all the men you kept your talents in the bed or buried in the ground. Fools.

WE have lost our way

July 14th, 2011
9:35 am

Just for my info, is I-85 new Toll lane being funded by private funds? If so, why not get private funds for mass transit projects.

Matt

July 14th, 2011
9:37 am

Government is awash in money? As a percentage of GDP state governments and the federal government is taking the least amount they have in the past 50-60 years.

18-20% average federally over 50 years and we are taking 15-16% now.

Matt

July 14th, 2011
9:39 am

Private funds dont really exist for transit. It is not profitable to get into transit.

Without government aid airlines would be bankrupt. Even with federal money they are bankrupt. they dont make money.

Neither do trains, neither do highways. No transit makes money.

It is why government does what it does to help the economy grow and move. We need transit, we need rail and we need roads.

but since people dont want to pay for it like our grandparents, and parents did we just stuff our fingers in our ear and scream at each other instead of getting stuff done.

sad day. we fiddle while america burns and crumbles and stuff our money in mattresses. sickening.

Politi Cal

July 14th, 2011
9:48 am

APS needs honorable people. An “honor code” is just like a “criminal code.” It is ignored by those wishing to do wrong through a lack of character. What I think APS needs is a superintendent who will replace the culture of mediocrity with one of excellence and this begins with an absolute intolerance of the heavy handed tactics used by APA principals and central office staff to intimidate teachers and administrators who had the “gall” to challenge the culture under Ms. Hall. And by the way, if you believe that she knew nothing about the cheating going on, perhaps I can sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.

Ga Values

July 14th, 2011
9:53 am

Why don’t we spend the trillinos we waste of foreign aid on American roads.. that’s something I could vote for.

Matt

July 14th, 2011
9:53 am

I think Georgia schools are so poor that complaining about cheating is a waste of time. how to make Georgia schools better?

Getting parents to care and allowing teachers to teach.

Unfortunately most parents that care just want to point fingers.

Waste of time. All people involved need to point fingers at themselves and make themselves better and in turn the system and kids will get better.

Till then we are just wasting our time. But weird to put this APS comment amongst the transportation comment.

Matt

July 14th, 2011
9:58 am

We spend around 24 billion in foreign aid a year. It would take 41 and a half years to spend 1 trillion in foreign aid. If we cut all foreign aid we would still have a 20 trillion dollar debt in 5 years.

Thanks for playing Ga Values.

We spend close to .9 trillion a year on defense. If we never increase that we will have spent 37 trillion dollars on defense over the next 41 years.

Which one will decrease the debt quicker if we cut it?

If you went to Georgia schools I will give you a hint. (its not the foreign aid)

Ga Values

July 14th, 2011
10:31 am

Matt

July 14th, 2011
9:58 am

I was including the cost of our current wars, which are going to make the middle east safe for Israel

Ga Values

July 14th, 2011
10:32 am

I went to undergraduate in Mass & B school in Mass.. Where did you go?

WE have lost our way

July 14th, 2011
10:32 am

@ Matt- I understand your viewpoint,however in the metro area for the past 40 years(especially in Atlanta) the infrastructure was total neglect. Spent funds on everything else.Now they want to make up past years of neglect in one big sweep.Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

Ga Values

July 14th, 2011
10:33 am

SB I went to undergraduate in Pen & B school in Mass.. Where did you go?

MrLiberty

July 14th, 2011
12:07 pm

And people wonder why there are calls to slash government power, eliminate government entirely, and the like. Government is the greatest threat to liberty known to man. This kind of brazen election manipulation only confirms it.

Kay

July 14th, 2011
2:45 pm

The gas tax is not sufficient to fund transportation in Georgia. As we drive more fuel efficient cars, our contribution goes down. The Obama administration has mandated an even higher fuel efficiency in cars manufactured in the future which will further decrease the revenue from the gas tax. Georgia needs a more reliable and effective funding source for transportation.

Please educate yourselves on the TSPLOST referendum. Each region will vote on a sales tax which will fund a previously published list of projects over ten years. You can know exactly how the money will be spent if you do your homework before the vote. Unlike the GA 400 toll, this tax will not continue after the ten year period unless citizens in their region VOTE for it. It’s ignorant to use the 400 toll as an excuse not to vote for the TSPLOST. And each county, regardless of if they have a project on the list, will receive a portion in the tax to be used on transportation projects in their own counties at their own discretion.

Our state has the potential for real economic growth in the coming years through improving our statewide transportation system. This will benefit every Georgian. Infrastructure is a worthy recipient of tax dollars since transportation affects everyone. And this is a sensible way to fund projects in your part of the state that involves citizen input and offers accountbility by predetermining how the funds will be spent.

transportation expert

July 14th, 2011
4:48 pm

WELL SAID KAY!