The coming clash between tea partyers and ‘infrastructure’ Republicans

Before they abandoned Atlanta on Wednesday, members of the Legislature dropped a valuable gift into the lap of the Georgia Republican party.

Not the new set of political boundaries that lawmakers completed – designed to keep the GOP in power for the next 10 years. Although that will indeed be worth a hand-written thank-you note.

No, the Legislature’s true offering to Republicans was a gift of omission, a gift of tough love. Last week, lawmakers bobbled what was supposed to be an easy task – Gov. Nathan Deal’s request to move the date of next year’s transportation sales tax referendum to the November general election.

In essence, GOP lawmakers bowed to tea party criticism that moving the date amounted to shopping for Democrats rousted to the polls by the 2012 Barack Obama campaign. At least for now, the vote on a new regional tax for transportation remains attached to next July’s primary – which is likely to be chockfull of passionate tea partyers.

This is where the gift comes in, unwanted though it may be.

Through its inaction, the Legislature has created what could be a defining, head-clearing confrontation between the GOP’s dominant and competing factions: A business community that pays the freight and a tea party that churns out the votes.

The timing of the sales tax vote – with every state lawmaker and a host of local leaders on Republican and Democratic ballots – will require a choosing of sides.

More important, passage will mandate the resurgence and organization of a group sidelined within the current Georgia GOP – “infrastructure” Republicans who recognize government as a necessary, even crucial, ingredient in transportation and economic development.

It may take some schooling. Republicans will have to be convinced that it was their president, Dwight Eisenhower, who created the interstate highway system. And a series of their presidents who pushed railroads to the Pacific coast in the 19th century.

Paul Bennecke, the Republican strategist plotting the course for transportation tax boosters in the 10-county region of metro Atlanta, said the best argument for passage will be jobs – both their creation and retention.

“That’s a seller in all 10 counties – Republican, Democrat, independent. People want to know that their economic future is viable, that it’s real,” Bennecke said. “And they want to know that someone is doing something about the worst problem we have in metro Atlanta.

“Every Republican will agree with you — that we have a serious problem. What’s differing among Republicans is that some people have a solution, and other people don’t have any solutions,” he said.

That, too, is likely to be part of next summer’s message.

The problem with being an infrastructure Republican is that it requires patience and a lowering of certain sensitive barriers – such as county sovereignty. Among the many projects on a yet-unfinished list that will be presented to metro Atlanta voters next year is an extension of heavy rail from Atlanta to the Galleria in Cobb County.

Already, the plan is taking a heavy beating from Cobb County lawmakers, who complain that such a line would do nothing to immediately help beleaguered commuters in the county’s northern reaches.

But supporters of that rail line say a Galleria area terminal is essential to the region’s future – and the eventual construction of an east-west rail line that connects southern Cobb to Doraville. “We can’t continue to do things as singular counties,” Bennecke said. But delayed gratification and pan-metroism could be a hard sell.

It’s difficult to say who might be willing to lead an infrastructure Republican movement. Gov. Nathan Deal may be one – to a point. But his abandonment of the vote-shifting bill showed that he is unwilling to become the face of next year’s sales tax campaign.

House Speaker David Ralston is another possibility. And in the Senate, state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, chairman of the chamber’s transportation committee, said he’d be willing to step up.

Another one may be state Sen. Ross Tolleson, a Republican from middle Georgia. On Tuesday, the Perry lawmaker hosted a news conference in which he listed the things that keep him up at night:

– The state’s need for a water reservoir system that’s likely to cost $1 billion and more;

– The dredging of the Port of Savannah, expected to cost $600 million and more. If the federal government decides not to pay for it, Tolleson said, Georgia will have to pick up the tab.

– A statewide energy delivery system – think gasoline, diesel and natural gas – that has too many bottle-necks, controlled by too few entities;

– And a transportation network that threatens to turn the region’s economic initiative over to venues such as Nashville or Charlotte.

Tolleson said he intends to be part of next year’s sales tax campaign. “We need to stay focused on that problem. Every 12 months that goes by digs you deeper in the hole,” he said.

“I took my daughters to Kennesaw State [University] on Friday. They’re fixing to go to college, so we’re touring colleges,” Tolleson said. For lunch, he treated them to sandwiches at a nearby Chick-fil-a.

“It wasn’t even rush-hour, and that traffic was so backed up through those red lights, it was horrendous,” he said. The senator told his daughters that they’d have to be crazy to live there for four years.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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39 comments Add your comment

Hypocrite Hunter

August 31st, 2011
6:49 pm

We need a lot of things…transportation is one. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to fix transportation right now…having spent the money already on other things. If we did somehow have the money, it would be a stretch to trust the people that promised that the 400 toll would expire (it didn’t), that run that bastion of efficiency MARTA, and that pile millions into our elected officials coffers (road construction companies). No thanks.


August 31st, 2011
6:54 pm

Galloway makes it sound as if income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes never paid into transportation or other government functions and only MORE, ADDITIONAL taxes are necessary. The Tea Party thinks we need to prioritize our spending instead of just layering on more with added taxes.

Also, it was the Tea Party which will go along with a change to the November election, but only on condition that the other tax and spender SPLOST schemes get voted in General Elections instead of when they think they can turn out just government workers who mostly benefit. Galloway just happened to forget to mention that.

Deal wisely put this off until the regular legislative session, and I suspect the T-Splost will then be moved to the General Election. This blog is just a biased liberal shot at the Tea Party.

Choosey Republican

August 31st, 2011
6:55 pm

I’d rather see more of my family than sit in more traffic. A penny is little to pay for a better life.


August 31st, 2011
6:57 pm

NO additional Taxes. PERIOD! find another way to fund it


August 31st, 2011
7:34 pm

Eisenhower didn’t “create’ the inter-state system.
Without Eisenhower and his Federal cronies, the interstate highway system AND the trans-continental railroad would have been done cheaper……….better……….and more efficiently.
I smell a government school education.
NO additional Taxes. PERIOD! find another way to fund it.
Or let the state stop sending money to Washington.

HIssy Fit

August 31st, 2011
7:42 pm

You are giving the tea party too much credit here when it was ACCG and GMA that, ultimately, helped kill the vote change.

Serious Robuck

August 31st, 2011
7:43 pm

As a liberal Democrat, I’ll be enjoying this clash between the two factions. Since I’ve arranged my professional life so I don’t often have to deal with traffic, I’ll vote NO. I would never want to give the establishment Republicans any victory. NOT EVER!! Rot in traffic, you a>>holes! If I were somewhere in the misty North and interested in moving my business to the South, I’d go to North Carolina.

Gene from Georgia

August 31st, 2011
7:46 pm

In my 60’s now, I’ve realized there has been a shift in the Republican party. I don’t remember Dwight Eisenhower demanding I be taught that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church.


August 31st, 2011
7:54 pm

The liberal media and Democrats SHOULD take note (they won’t) –

Rep. West threatens in letter to leave the Congressional Black Caucus over tea party bashing

In response to recent comments made by Indiana Democratic Rep. Andre Carson and California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters that denigrate the tea party movement, Florida Republican Rep. Allen West — a member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Tea Party Caucus — sent a letter to CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver Wednesday requesting that the body condemn such remarks.

West added that Carson’s comments, which caricature the tea party movement as a group of racists, are “baseless” and “desperate.” West reiterated that the movement is focused on fiscal responsibility and American Exceptionalism and wrote that the the CBC should be working to end the “balkanisation” of America.


August 31st, 2011
7:59 pm

This column from yesterday touched on the subject and threw down the gauntlet to the GA Tea Party folks opposed to TSPLOST


August 31st, 2011
8:11 pm

Really more taxes for more roads so commuters can travel further and create more pollution. I agree with Gene from Georgia.


August 31st, 2011
8:13 pm

@ Keith – that linked article sums it up pretty well, and a LOT better than Galloway above. At the end, the author asks how it should be funded if no T-SPLOST or gas tax. While I support the user pays gas tax, the other way to fund it is to prioritize government spending. Taxes have stayed the same or gone up via percentages and millage rates, but spending schemes simply outrun the increases in revenue.

Road Scholar

August 31st, 2011
8:16 pm

HH: Get over it.

Centrist: So, you’re against jobs being created, as well as cleaner air and improved mobility. The money raised by the tax SHALL be used for the projects on the final project list. Nothing more: nothing less. That is what is different about how this tax money will be spent!


August 31st, 2011
8:33 pm

Oh please, someone enlighten me, what is the billion dollar water reservoir project all about? And, where is it proposed, or likely to be?


August 31st, 2011
8:35 pm

no more forever its just a penny taxes!!!


August 31st, 2011
8:40 pm

Open invitation to leftists: For just pennies a day (let’s say two hundred and fifty of them), I’ll stop posting if a thousand of you send them to me.

Big Hat

August 31st, 2011
8:46 pm

When are you crackers going to learn? Pain, suffering and death are GOOD for you; God said so.


August 31st, 2011
9:01 pm

Galloway says….
‘It may take some schooling. Republicans will have to be convinced that it was their president, Dwight Eisenhower, who created the interstate highway system. And a series of their presidents who pushed railroads to the Pacific coast in the 19th century.”

Journalism degrees must not require a lot of history courses. Roosevelt proposed the Interstate System. The “Credit Mobilier Scandal” involving Republicans and their construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, was monumental in this country’s history.

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave Thomas MacDonald, chief at the Bureau of Public Roads, a hand-drawn map of the U.S. marked with eight superhighway corridors for study. In 1939, Bureau of Public Roads Division of Information chief Herbert S. Fairbank wrote a report entitled Toll Roads and Free Roads, “the first formal description of what became the interstate highway system,” ….”The Roads that Built America: The Incredible Story of the U.S. Interstate System”

The Crédit Mobilier of America scandal of 1872 involved the Union Pacific Railroad and the Crédit Mobilier of America construction company in the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The distribution of Crédit Mobilier shares of stock by Congressman Oakes Ames along with cash bribes to congressmen took place during the Andrew Johnson presidency in 1868. The revelation of the congressmen who received cash bribes or shares in Crédit Mobilier took place during the Ulysses S. Grant administration in 1872. The scandal’s origins actually go back to the Abraham Lincoln presidency with the formation of the Crédit Mobilier in 1864. “Encyclopedia Americana”

Mr. KnowitAll

August 31st, 2011
9:17 pm

Let’s get this straight, people. TSPLOST is about big time developers and campaign contributors to get government to build transportation systems so they can build gaggles of apartments, high density housing, and retail clusters.

Believe me—they don’t give a damn if you sit in traffic until hell freezes over. It is about the public propping up big money developers.

…now….tell me again how spending hundreds of million$ on the Beltline is going to help traffic?? PLEASE…get serious….


August 31st, 2011
9:25 pm

Open invitation to leftists: For just pennies a day (let’s say two hundred and fifty of them), I’ll stop posting if a thousand of you send them to me

What would we do for comedy if we did that?


August 31st, 2011
9:31 pm


Are you saying that a fine upstanding Christian, like Nathan “Shady” Deal, can be persuaded by campaign contributions and sweetheart deals from big time developers? Surely, you are mistaken.


August 31st, 2011
9:34 pm

eatmo, your cut and paste wikipedia job is lame. Stacking your University of Google degree up against Jim’s UGA degree is not going to end well for you—unless you enjoy people pointing at you and laughing.


August 31st, 2011
9:35 pm

if money for transportation is needed then quit giving delta airlines fuel and other tax breaks, quit giving plane manufacturers tax breaks, and undo giving potential businesses a share of the sales taxes they collect, etc etc etc etc etc

Stop The Theft

August 31st, 2011
9:36 pm

Road Scholar: Every time someone mentions “job creation” with government, it always entails robbing me of money. Why is that? Why is it that the only way jobs can be “created” is for government to go out and steal money from me (and others) via 1-, 2-, 3, etc. % taxes based on everything I buy.

You, and all the other socialist-minded members of the GOP, seem to believe that it’s bad when the Democrat-run federal government uses tax dollars to “create jobs” (while destroying wealth…my wealth and others’ wealth), but somehow it’s okay of Republicans do the same exact thing to people in Georgia.

Question Man

August 31st, 2011
9:38 pm

Aren’t “Infrastructure Republicans” just “Spend and Spend Republicans?”


August 31st, 2011
9:44 pm

“Infrastructure Republicans” are RINOs or former Democrats who converted in name only. They are Democrats’ and the media’s favorite Republicans.


August 31st, 2011
9:49 pm

What is your point? I have studied both subjects, and knew Roosevelt concieved the Interstate System, and that the “Credit Mobilier Scandal” wasn’t exactly a feather in Republican’s hats. BTW, I have the book I cited on my self, next to my two UGA degrees.

Jack Smith

August 31st, 2011
10:07 pm

If Atlanta metro area needs something, let them pay for it. Don’t ask rural Georgia citizens to pay. The economics in rural Georgia isn’t good, and the folks can’t afford a ten year tax. We must beware of Washington & their attempt to set up a V.A.T. tax. You talk about hurting, this would be a killer for certain.

Stop The Theft

August 31st, 2011
10:11 pm


The Atlanta area T-SPLOST is just for the 10-county Atlanta area. You rural folks (if that is where you are from) have your own T-SPLOST to contend with, separate from the Atlanta-centered one.

So, your money stolen from you will stay in your area, and our money stolen from us will be put in the local slush funds.


August 31st, 2011
10:26 pm

“But we MUST raise taxes so we can create jobs.”

It’s a sad day when Republicans talk like Democrats. But then, when Nathan Deal is leading our state, what do you expect. I mean, he’s only been a Republican since what? 1993? And of course, the only reason he switched parties was so he could keep his cool congressional gig.

Down with these people.

Big Hat

September 1st, 2011
12:20 am

Ignore any post that begins “Let’s get this straight, people.”, “Look, people”, “So, is this what I’m hearing?”, “What don’t you get, people?”, “How many times…”, “If I’ve said it once…”, and the all time cliche’ of the tiny, concrete encrusted brain of a self-appointed expert “As my pappy (granddad, mother, rich uncle, drill instructor, 1st grade teacher, first girlfriend, last girlfriend, whatever) said to me…”. So there.


September 1st, 2011
1:26 am

As the guy who pumps my septic tank used to say………..

There are some very good posts on here and most reflect what appears to be the majority sentiment (mine too), that there should be NO MORE TAXES and that the government must find a way to do its job with the resources it already has.

State government broke trust with me when they extended the GA 400 toll authority beyond the sunset date. I will never trust them again when it comes to taxation, neither should you.


September 1st, 2011
8:35 am

Changing the date amounts to nothing really.
The plan was cleverly crafted in the General Assembly to provide substantial income for the consulting community, and then die at the ballot box.
If our General Assembly was under the charge of forward thinking leaders, we would have had a penny sales tax increase on at least the whole Macon north portion of the STATE rather than the bogus regions. One would have assumed the Speaker would have absorbed some concept of how useful a fully functional, multi-modal transportation system was during his lobbied trip to Europe. Alas, I guess he was more concerned at being unable to find a Stuckeys or Cracker Barrell anywhere. What is it they say about leading a mule to water?
Anyway, a half-state sales tax increase would have provided the funds to complete a real, interconnected transportation system that would not only have alleviated traffic, but enabled people simplified point-to-point access for individuals and groups of all types. With such a system in place to connect Rome,Marietta, Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, Carrollton, Gainesville, Dahlonega and all points in between, selling the southern half of the state on the importance of moving into the TWENTIETH century would have been a moderately easy sell.
But that was not the intent. The current majority in the General Assembly knows what is best for us and the put together this mickey-mouse regional plan to show us.
Silly us.

Tea Partier

September 1st, 2011
9:24 am

It is not the proper function of government to solve problems, especially if it involves spending money. I would much rather take home that extra $8.33 in my paycheck than fix Atlanta’s transportation mess.

And that Marshall Plan … just another example of the tax and spend nanny state.


September 1st, 2011
9:56 am

tea whatever

‘It is not the proper function of government to solve problems’

The genius of those who call themselves the tea party. No wonder they have captured the imagination of at least 10% of the population.

Capitol Hack

September 1st, 2011
10:12 am

I’m thinking a name change from “Tea Party” to “Kool-Aid Party” is in order. Chuck Shiflett in Cartersville raises some good points. Do Tea Partiers have any ideas other than “no new taxes not never ever”? Georgia drags the bottom of nearly every ranking for quality of life, health, education, etc etc, AND we have one of the LOWEST tax burdens of any state. See any correlation there?

How much more damage do you people want to do to yourselves to avoid giving up a dollar? I’ve asked Tea Partiers how much they think is “fair” to pay for taxes, and they have no idea. All they know is they pay “too much” and government is “too big”. It’s time for common sense voters to take back the debate from the Kool-Aid drinkers.

Classic chicken and egg dilemma: poor education breeds poor public policy, breeds poor education…


September 1st, 2011
10:29 am

That traffic is why he should send his daughters to Georgia Southern. we don’t have those traffic problems in the ‘Boro.


September 1st, 2011
10:34 am

Atlanta needs better transportation… sad that we can’t do big things here. But I do love/cringe at folk’s reinterpretation of history…. Eisenhower doesn’t even get credit for the Interstate Highway system?…. pretty soon the neo-cons that call themselves Republicans may just try to drop the (R) after his name. Ah but with any luck this too shall pass…..

Stop The Theft

September 1st, 2011
12:09 pm

Capitol Hack: The “correlation” has more to do with the incompetence and unethical nature of our state’s elected leaders being correlated to why Georgia is at the bottom of education and all else you wish to dream-up.

It was the failure of the elected leaders who brought-on our water problems. They were too busy getting their pockets stuffed with developer money to pay attention to the growth that new development would bring and use-up more and more water (filed under “DUH! How did that happen?”).

Go retrieve the brass donkey that Larry Walker got for his district many years ago and turn that into a road.