Your morning jolt: 25 business groups pin down candidates on transportation tax

The Metro Atlanta Chamber is coordinating an effort to identify legislative candidates on the July 31 primary ballots who support – or oppose – the transportation sales tax that will be decided the same day.

A letter sent over the names of 25 business groups and chambers of commerce – many of which can be counted on for regular campaign contributions through their political action committees – opens with these paragraphs:

Your response is kindly requested to better inform these and other businesses, organizations and voters as they make decisions about which candidates to support during the 2012 election cycle.

We believe the regional transportation referendum is the only option available to address metro Atlanta’s traffic congestion problem. We also believe the project selection process was an open and collective effort by local elected leaders and thousands of citizens across our region. We believe this is our best opportunity to improve and expand our transportation infrastructure while creating a major, long-lasting economic boost to the metro Atlanta region.

It is important for us, and to the voters of this region, to know where candidates stand on this critical issue.

Here’s the very specific question:

Will you publically support the passage of the $8.5 billion regional transportation referendum, which includes 157 regional transportation projects and $1.3 billion for local transportation investments?

The Metro Atlanta Chamber effort is separate from the Connect Georgia/Georgia Chamber of Commerce exercise that caused a dust-up on Monday. But they both address the nitty-gritty of electoral contests – identifying supporters and attempting to at least neutralize opponents by raising the prospect of dried-up campaign funding.

These are the groups behind the Metro chamber letter:

American Council of Engineering Companies of GA

American Institute of Architects, Atlanta Chapter

Associated Builders and Contractors

Associated General Contractors

Atlanta Apartment Association

Atlanta Board of Realtors/Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors

Buckhead Coalition

Clayton County Chamber of Commerce

Central Atlanta Progress

Cobb Chamber of Commerce

Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce

Council for Quality Growth

DeKalb Chamber of Commerce

Douglas County Chamber of Commerce

Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce

GA. Construction Aggregates Association

Georgia Beverage Association

Georgia Concrete Paving Association

Georgia Concrete Products Association

Georgia Mining Association

Georgia Restaurant Association

Georgia Technology Association

Georgia/Carolinas Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute

Greater Atlanta Homebuilders

Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce

Henry County Chamber of Commerce

Metro Atlanta Chamber

Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce

Over the next month, much of the transportation sales tax campaign will be conducted in places you can’t see – private workplaces. My AJC colleague Ariel Hart caught a glimpse on Monday, when she followed Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed into the Siemens manufacturing facility in Alpharetta:

Siemens has won the Atlanta Streetcar contract and its employees in Alpharetta are assembling the motor parts. Addressing an audience of a few reporters and scores of Siemens employees, Reed’s speech segued from the Atlanta Streetcar to the proposed Beltline, an item in the referendum’s project list.

“On July 31 we’re going to have a vote for the T.I.A. [the Transportation Investment Act of 2010],” Reed said, “and I hope every single person that’s working for Siemens is going to be out there voting for the T.I.A.” With Siemens’ drive technologies division president Doug Keith looking on, the employees burst into applause.

***
On Monday, the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation sponsored a town hall focused on the transportation referendum in metro Atlanta. From WABE (90.1FM):

Former columnist Phil Kent was one of the panelists. He took aim at the $600 million allotted to the Beltline.

“It’s not a congestion relief project, it’s not a traffic project. God bless them, it’s a nice real estate development project and if the city of Atlanta wants to do that, then by god why doesn’t the city of Atlanta pay for it itself.”

Todd Rehm of GaPundit.com points out that this puts the hyper-conservative Kent on the same side as ultra-liberal Matthew Cardinale of Atlanta Progressive News, who fears poor people will be ousted an interior city perimeter.

***
State Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta) intends to hold a press conference at the state Capitol this morning to denounce “homophobic campaign tactics” allegedly being used by his opponent in his primary contest. Taylor faces fellow incumbent Pat Gardner, who has her own news conference at Paschal’s at noon. The two Democrats were thrown into District 57 by last year’s Republican-controlled redistricting.

***
Fox News Latino has identified Linda Becquer Pritchett of Riverdale, one of three Democrats running for an open seat on metro Atlanta’s south side, as the niece of the late salsa queen Celia Cruz, “the iconic Cuban-American singer.” Pritchett, a paralegal, is one of eight Hispanics on Georgia primary ballots. Her opponents: teacher T.J. Copeland and attorney Ronnie Mabra.

***
A GOP candidate in the 12th District congressional contest has yet to emerge, but the National Republican Congressional Committee is already heavily committed to whomever he or she may be. From Politico:

The most notable new investment targets Georgia Democratic Rep. John Barrow. The NRCC is reserving $900,000 in the Augusta and Savannah media markets, a huge sum in those parts that will pay for two-plus months of ads.

***
Jonathan Karl of ABC News says the dog that doesn’t bark is evidence that the Republican contest to become Mitt Romney’s running mate has narrowed – and currently doesn’t include U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

[K]nowledgeable Republican sources tell me that Rubio is not being vetted by Mitt Romney’s vice presidential search team. He has not been asked to complete any questionnaires or been asked to turn over any financial documents typically required of potential vice presidential candidates.

***
My AJC colleague Daniel Malloy in Washington says Senate will be a frenzy of yeas and nays today with a planned vote-o-rama on 73 farm bill amendments, scheduled to begin shortly after 2 p.m:

The amendments, split between the parties, cover all manner of issues — from rural broadband to aerial farm surveillance to food stamps.

The amendment deal between Republican and Democratic leaders paves the way for the bipartisan-backed bill to pass. Our own Saxby Chambliss, former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, will get votes on three of the 20-odd amendments he offered – including one to ax a $20 million farmer’s market promotional program – but none of the proposed alterations fix his chief objection to the bill. Chambliss, along with other Southern senators, thinks crop subsidy reforms in the Farm Bill are stacked against peanut and rice farmers.

Chambliss doesn’t hold out much hope that his concerns will be addressed in the Senate. But in the GOP-run House, Southerners have more sway and Chambliss thinks he has a friendly ear in Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, chairman of the agriculture committee. The people’s chamber has yet to release its version of the farm bill. Current law expires Sept. 30.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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16 comments Add your comment

n

June 19th, 2012
10:08 am

What’s ailing Georgia is not a lack of asphalt and roads, it’s a lack of future vision.
$8.5 billion, mostly for roads and road builders, will do zero to attract 21st Century business to GA.
First in foreclosures, first in bank failures, first in lax ethical enforcement, notoriously lax environmental enforcement, near the top in drop-out rate, near the bottom in SAT scores, etc., etc.
$8.5 billion for asphalt just continues the decades-old tradition of shunting huge amounts of taxpayer money into the pockets of road builders, developers, and insiders, while the rest of the state languishes in the backwater.
It is too sad that “progressive” has become such a dirty, misused word.
What, in fact, is the opposite of progressive?
The answer defines what Georgia has become, due to the shortsightedness of its leaders.

Bernie

June 19th, 2012
10:09 am

Let the Greasing of Palms Began……….

Romegaguy

June 19th, 2012
10:09 am

Can somebody go to Rashad’s press conference and ask him where he actually lives?

the cat

June 19th, 2012
10:18 am

I will be voting NO!

Ga Values

June 19th, 2012
10:20 am

“Former columnist Phil Kent was one of the panelists. He took aim at the $600 million allotted to the Beltline.

“It’s not a congestion relief project, it’s not a traffic project. God bless them, it’s a nice real estate development project and if the city of Atlanta wants to do that, then by god why doesn’t the city of Atlanta pay for it itself.”

I have known Phil for a long time & this is 1 of the few times we have agreed..

Just vote NO for waste & corruption.

Bill Clements

June 19th, 2012
10:32 am

TSplost is an issue for all candidates for the upcoming primaries, but a larger issue is support of the candidates “neighborhood” schools and stopping the 10 year run of straving our neighborhood schools with austerity cuts – Candidates who support their neighborhood schools will get my vote, along with thousands of others ! Keep posted !

Bob Loblaw

June 19th, 2012
11:14 am

Pat Gardner has class. Let’s see what Taylor gins up.

Raquel Morris

June 19th, 2012
12:11 pm

Pat Gardner is not a homophobe. Rashad Taylor is just a loser grasping at straws. Maybe Rashad would have better luck in whichever district he actually lives in.

Ann Johnson

June 19th, 2012
12:56 pm

Anyone can look at the flyer and see that it was put out by some of the mayor’s cronies. It is an exact replica that jarrod jordan designed for mitzi bickers in atlanta school board race against angela brown

Shar

June 19th, 2012
2:44 pm

The Beltline is a tourist attraction, not a transportation option. Reed shoved it into the TIA list to pay off his developer donors, which is the same effect that the completely self-serving bunch of businesses which are signatories to the demand letter are trying to gain from targeted legislators. Pay us off or we won’t pay you off. I wish that some of our elected officials were as concerned about the return on the taxpayers’ investment as they are about their personal payoffs.

Pat Gardner comes close to being an ideal representative. She’s smart, thorough and responsive, and she makes sure that her constituents are polled regularly to guide her decision-making. Her district has been warped by the gerrymandering process overseen by the Republicans – it now rivals the infamous “snake” in a tortured attempt to disenfranchise as many voters as possible – and she’s running against someone who apparently has nothing better to offer so is reduced to obnoxious robocalls and this kind of unhinged attack. Gardner has been representing – and being reelected by – a strongly gay district for many years now, and if she had homophobic tendencies someone would have noticed by now.

Debbie Dooley

June 19th, 2012
7:34 pm

There are over 100,000 tea party activists in the metro Atlanta area and rest assured we are following very closely any elected official that supports T-SPLOST. We have very long memories… The chamber may have money but they don’t have the boots on the ground and number of activists.. The defeat of Sen. Lugar in Indiana showed the sometimes money makes no difference.

I can tell you that tea party activists view the chamber of commerce in avery negative light.. This will not be the last time we butt heads..

mottlicher

June 19th, 2012
11:22 pm

@ n….dunno where you got your numbers but you are way off base. A little over 3 billion over 10 years for roads, slightly more for TRANSIT.

ok lets see….local financing, local control over infrastructure projects that will be used by the very people voting for this. Regular reports on the progress of the tax and the projects…a citizens advisory committee to keep an eye on expenditures.

No money being sent to Washington to disappear in a myriad of duplicative vote buying schemes. We are 10 years behind on make real steps to cleaning up our congestion…, the gas tax is no longer able to help relieve the problem as over 75% is spent on O&M. The Feds are going to have to reduce the amount the send to us (debt is overwhelming) We have a good first step in front of us and the tea party is talking about paybacks. Where is Ms. Dooley’s plan? What does the Ga Tea Party’s solution to our transportation woes? I would love to see a well thought out alternative.

This is our only chance folks…well unless you like seeing toll booths added to more and more routes…and forget any transit improvements I guess.

Debbie Dooley

June 20th, 2012
6:22 am

T-SPLOST is a tax trap . It is ironic that mottlicher mentions the gas tax and yet money from the GDOT from the gas tax will be expected to complete some of the projects. The supporters of T-SPLOST have run a mis-leading campaign. They will stop at nothing to pass T-SPLOST. Developers and road builders stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars if TIA passes. Supporters of T-SPLOST even solicited the help of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to help pass T-SPLOST. Brian added the following pre-amble to the ballot question already passed by the legislature, “”Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen over sight” . This is electioneering by the Secretary of State. The ballot question passed by the Legislature is , ”
“Shall______ County’s transportation system and (plus) the transportation network in this region and (plus) the state be improved by providing for a 1 percent special district transportation sales and use tax for the purpose of transportation projects and programs for a period of ten years.”
Notice it clearly mentions region and state. This ballot questions supercedes what TIA says. It clearly shows that the state will also receive funds from TIA and it is not just the region.

52% of regional funds will go to fund mass transit related projects. Tens of millions of dollars in the metro project list goes to fund “studies”. 600 million dollars goes for the Atlanta Belt Line trolley car project. Just how will trolley cars alleviate traffic on the interstates? MARTA is losing 500 million per year and yet the project list would expand it further. There is 768 million dollars designation for maintenance and operations during the ten year period. Where are the maintenance/operations costs going to come from after that? Perhaps an extension of T-SPLOST? According to MARTA’s Beverly Scott, MARTA is facing a 2.3 billion dollars backlog on maintenance in the next decade, yet you want us to expand it?

Local control is at the county level – not the region level. This would create a regional government for transportation needs.

We have presented solutions and so have other opponents of T-SPLOST such as this.

http://mdjonline.com/view/full_story/18977967/article-To-get-better-value-for-tax-dollars-than-they-will-from-TSPLOST–voters-should-go-to-plan-B?

Edward Ruffin

June 20th, 2012
7:12 am

The Chamberpot of Commerce never saw a tax it didn’t like. Don’t vote yourself a tax increase, politicians always do a good job of doing that for you.

[...] Political Insider Jim Galloway picked up on something in yesterday’s morning email. On Monday, the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation sponsored a town hall focused on the [...]

Proud Voter

June 20th, 2012
10:51 am

T-splost is not a subversive agenda for anyone. It’s open to all. The beauty of the tax is that anyone who spends a dollar in your region pays for the use of the roads and bridges that so desperately need to be updated and repaired. Look at the parking lot at the grocery store the next time you go. Are those license plates only from your county? The fact that ALL of this money will have local control outweighs any federal money for the same transportation needs which always has many many conditions and exceptions. Sometimes something is just logical and reasonable. We’re all skittish about new taxes, but this one will benefit anyone who travels our roads and bridges in Georiga, tourists included!