Transportation sales tax opponents object to wording of ballot question

My AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin on Thursday attended a state Capitol press conference held by opponents of the transportation sales tax, and sends this report:

Tea Party groups from around the state blasted the upcoming transportation tax referendum as a “scam from the beginning” and said advocates had corrupted the ballot process.

Opponents of the July 31 regional referendums said supporters gamed the process to add a preamble to the ballot question that unfairly and inaccurately touts the proposed tax’s potential impact. The ballot question for the Metro Atlanta referendum is preceded by an introduction that says the tax “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”

Tea Party activists Julianne Thompson and Debbie Dooley, as well as Jack Staver of the Transportation Leadership Coalition and Kay Godwin of Georgia Conservatives in Action said that preamble does not appear in the legislation that created the referendums. They disagree that the tax would either create jobs or reduce traffic.

“Messing with our ballot is very wrong,” Staver said. “How dare you?”

We apologize for the interruption, but we need to note that loaded questions on Georgia ballots have a long and glorious history. Stay tuned for the wording of November question for the proposed constitutional amendment to restore the state’s power to create charter schools. But let’s continue:

The groups called on the governor, attorney general and secretary of state to remove the offending language, but stopped short of saying if they would sue to have it removed.

“Stay tuned,” Staver said. Debbie Dooley, co-organizer of the Atlanta Tea Party, said they are consulting with attorneys.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, however, said the legislation creating the tax instructed regional groups to create project lists for the proposed tax based on a set of criteria specifically outlined in state law. That law includes job creation and traffic relief.

“Ultimately, the language in the preamble is all referenced in the original legislation that was passed over three years ago,” Kemp said in a statement. “The preamble language exists for this reason and this reason only.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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38 comments Add your comment

ld

June 21st, 2012
8:28 pm

Polititions not only like to twist ballot questions to fool the voters in to thinking they’re getting something they’re not, they also like to do the same with laws and in the creative labels/titles/names they give laws. Anytime this is recognized, it’s a good bet the thing needs to be voted down.

Savannah Moderate

June 21st, 2012
8:47 pm

Is it just me or does anybody else have consistent difficulty loading Mr. Galloway’s blog? Out of all the websites that I visit on a daily basis, http://www.ajc.com is the least user-friendly and requires the largest amount of patience in waiting for pages to load. Mr. Galloway, is there any chance y’all could bring in some IT consultants and get this problem fixed? I would greatly appreciate it.

Kris

June 21st, 2012
9:10 pm

I think if God was going to give the earth a enema he should first give the republican party a ultrasound the kind they propose Women get. AS for the water part, the hole should be dug at the state capitol.

hiram

June 21st, 2012
9:31 pm

“Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”

Everyone seems to be overlooking the amount of traffic congestion that will be caused by years of construction delays – not to mention the number of accidents. Putting what amounts to band aids on Atlanta’s massive traffic problems is comparable to the doctors trying to save Lincoln by poking their fingers into his bullet wound. There are no good alternatives to Atlanta’s traffic mess, given the total lack of planning up to this point. A real fix will be prohibitively expensive, because you either have to plow through high investment real estate to bypass town or stack the highway lanes like you do buildings when space is limited, to go through town. Atlanta’s geographic location mandates that it is always going to be the center of the wheel for out of state traffic, and trains will do absolutely nothing to address that issue. One thing is for certain – nothing of substance will ever get done until you purge the current politicians from office, and do away with all lobbyists’ gifts, period. The limit shouldn’t be a hundred dollars, it should be zero. And, there has to be total transparency in government, or you will never clean up the mess.

Proud Voter

June 21st, 2012
9:48 pm

These arguments are silly. Nobody is addressing what the ballot will actually say. They are writing “paraphrases” which are totally incorrect. If you want to be a naysayer, at least argue the facts and not made up interpretations that are pitiful. You want to give up on Atlanta? Really? Well then maybe you should move somewhere else and let others who really care about Atlanta have your oxygen that you are wasting on nonsensical statements.

T-splost is a great idea! It would give Georgia an absolute opportunity to lead the country in an effort to raise revenue to improve roads and bridges that are in need of repair or replacement or creation. If you all enjoy driving on ill-kept roads and unsafe bridges, you don’t need to be driving.

The taxes that t-splost will collect is one of the most fair taxes of all. It will be generated by sales tax and stay in the region where it is collected for regional improvements. No other tax in Georiga does this.

Think, people. Don’t use tunnel vision to look at everything that is not generated from your narrow thinking. Other folks have good ideas, too – Republicans and Democrats; the Tea Party? They need to go stay home and be quiet. They make little sense.

Kris

June 21st, 2012
10:01 pm

Next the GA, gop will tell us what a sweet deal this is.

“Every lane of southbound I-75 was covered in pancake syrup,” Fort Mitchell Police Officer Mark Spanyer told the Kentucky Enquirer. “It was a royal pain in the butt.”
The semitrailer dumped hundreds of boxes of Hungry Jack syrup bottles.
Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt in the accident, including the driver. Spanyer said the incident occurred on Thursday when the Hungry Jack driver maneuvered to avoid a car on the highway with a blown-out tire. While the driver was able to avoid the car, he then crashed into a median on the Buttermilk Pike overpass.
Sadly, cleanup crews were forced to use sand, rather than giant pancakes, to clean up the mess.

hiram

June 21st, 2012
10:18 pm

@proud voter
Are you one of the principals, or just an employee of a road construction contractor? Do you have your sights on a new corporate jet, or just a new bass boat?

Shar

June 21st, 2012
10:21 pm

@Proud Voter: No one argues that transportation in Atlanta needs to be addressed. This list of projects is not the answer, and funding it will just put us farther behind as our politicians and their owners, the developers and contractors, concentrate on divvying up the loot and avoiding any initiative that looks like real change. The absolute most that any Atlantan will see is a 6% decrease in commuting time, and the great majority of us will not see that.

The people who are salivating to get their hands on this money know it represents backward thinking. They designed it this way, so that the big money stays with the status quo. They know that there is no concrete defense for the list and therefore the tax, so they have put together transparently fact-free “information”like “Mr. Stan Still” (did you notice that it includes not a single factual reason to vote for the TSPLOST?) and tried their best to game the vote by scheduling it for the least possible turnout and, now, adding a preamble to the ballot itself that is illegal, untrue and blatantly biased.

Do you really think they’d do this if there were strong, taxpayer-centric reasons to support it? This thing takes us in the wrong direction while creating a big slush fund for pols and their pals.

What difference does it make if it stays local? Backwards and corrupt are bad whether they are next door or across the country.

Proud Voter

June 21st, 2012
10:35 pm

There is no possibility for slush funds. The money must stay in the region and it must be spent on the projects that have already been approved. T-splost money is not going into the general revenue of Georgia. It will be collected and stay local. How can you vote against anything that has the possibility of creating so many thousands of jobs for Georiga? Even if is only created half of the jobs that are now projected, that would be a huge benefit for Georgia alone. Can you really tell the laborer who can’t get a job because there are no local projects to employ him because someone “might” do something that you disapprove of? Our government certainly could use some improvement and many politicians do need to be replaced, but fight that battle in another arena and not in the arena where the working people may have the possibility to get a job and provide for their families. Or maybe you prefer to just funnel more money into welfare, unemployment benefits, and subsequently law enforcement? I’d much rather give Georgia a chance.

Kris

June 21st, 2012
10:40 pm

@ hiram
Good call.
“@proud voter
Are you one of the principals, or just an employee of a road construction contractor”

Wonder if its Thrasher,. Matthews or Three Crooks Asphalt. (Nate, Sonnie or Reed).

Proud Voter

June 21st, 2012
10:45 pm

No, I’m not one of you.
I am an independent voter and thinker.
I do not approach this t-splost controversy lightly. After reading all of the information and researching it data, I feel this is the best thing going for us right now.
Do you have something specific to offer instead of the t-splost? If so, now is the time to bring specifics to the conversation. Just says it’s bad and preaching gloom and doom really doesn’t convince people of much except that your negativity is counterproductive.

GaNative

June 21st, 2012
10:50 pm

The comments here and commentary elsewhere clearly demonstrate that no one has a better alternative to the TSPLOST project list or a plan to address our traffic concerns, other than throw out all of the politicians, hope for a better group and wait 15 years (which is not a plan).

This is our only opportunity to get our region and State moving forward and to show the rest of the country that Georgia is open for business.

For the record, I do have a personal economic stake in the TSPLOST. I’m a business attorney. I need businesses to continue to move to Georgia and to thrive to reach my earning potential. And no matter your profession, we’re all more or less in the same boat. We need businesses in Atlanta and Georgia to succeed to have more opportunities and better paying jobs.

Centrist

June 21st, 2012
10:52 pm

Here is why the loaded preamble is totally bogus on all three of its lies:

On April 16, the Atlanta Journal Constitution released PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter found that Atlanta Regional Commission’s (ARC) claim of creating or supporting an additional 200,000 jobs as mostly false.

ARC’s Mike Alexander has publicly admitted, “The average commute time really doesn’t change a lot.”

The Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor would appoint unelected officials to these positions that have no authority to take action against fraud, waste, or spending. Additionally, both the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor are actively advocating for the tax passage.

yuzeyurbrane

June 21st, 2012
10:58 pm

As fellow commentators know, I rarely agree with the Tea Party on anything, but this time they are spot on. Unfortunately, deceptive descriptions of ballot initiatives is a long used ploy in Georgia.

UGA75

June 21st, 2012
11:11 pm

GaNative, giving politicians the largest tax hike in state history under the possibility they might actually spend the money on the projects they say they are going to, is exactly like the Frog and Scorpion at the River. The Scorpion begs the frog to let him ride on its back across the river. No says the frog you’ll sting me and I’ll die. No says the Scorpion, if I sting you we’ll both drowned. The frog reluctantly agrees and they start across the river. Suddenly the Scorpion stings the frog. Why asks the Frog, you have killed us both by this act of treachery. The Scorpion sighs and said I know, but it my nature. We the poor taxpayers of this state are the frogs, the politician, cronies, lobbyist, and just plain thieves are the Scorpions. Most scorpions, maybe even you, believe the promises they are making, but in the end, they’ll sting us because they can not help themselves, it is their nature.

Kris

June 21st, 2012
11:16 pm

@ UGA75….Amen

Now I would like to thank all the damn republicans for their diligent work to accomplish this.

Sorry Jim. From CNN

Some of the world’s biggest banks were downgraded by rating agency Moody’s, which cited concerns about the stability of the global financial system

native

June 21st, 2012
11:35 pm

SPLOST isn’t perfect (what is?). But what is the alternative, and how would we pay for it? I am all for fiscal rectitude, but things cost money. It seems the choice is to do nothing and continue to watch our infrastructure crumble or take action. Any suggestions?

Kris

June 21st, 2012
11:59 pm

@ native.
Would it be asking too much if Deal, Reed and the gang simply be honest about the whole thing.

All Bids on the project be out in the open and ALL Laws be followed to insure that the citizens get what they pay for ……

No Teabagging

June 22nd, 2012
12:16 am

This is nothing new! Georgia routinely phrases referendums with confusing, misleading and downright false descriptions of what the voter is really voting for or against. If there is a lie in the description, I vote NO!

Road Scholar

June 22nd, 2012
5:54 am

So folks, you don’t like the project list; where is yours?

You don’t trust the politicians, why did you let them get voted into office? Please provide SPECIFIC cases of graft, theft, etc

You don’t like the tax; what is your DETAILED plan to accomplish transportation improvements in the Atlanta region? Do nothing?

And what’s with accusing people of having a stake in the passage of the tax? WE ALL HAVE SOMETHING TO GAIN! Spending $* B in the 10 county Atlanta region and more monies in other regions around the state will not provide jobs? Money spent on transportation projects turns over 7 times through wages, commerce, taxes, etc. What economic plan do you have to jump start Atlanta’s and Georgia’s economy?

All you alleged experts out there, please enlighten me. Do nothing?

Road Scholar

June 22nd, 2012
5:55 am

That should read $8B….need more coffee!

Attack Dog

June 22nd, 2012
5:58 am

1. Dixiecrats fail to realize that real Atlantans really don’t need the TSPLOST. They either live close to work, drive against the traffic jams, or ride MARTA. 2. They don’t want it because most of the money will go to a few contractor who won’t hire them. 3. They don’t care if Dixiecrats’ average communte goes up to 2-hours in their gas-powered, air polluting cars, who don’t earn fair wages in a right to work state and will get sick with no healthcare.

Attack Dog

June 22nd, 2012
6:06 am

1. It is funny to hear or read every time a Dixiecrat criticizes their politicans as being corrupt, untrustworthy, cheaters, liars, crooks. Don’t forget, you are in a Red state. 2. Its funny to hear or read where a Dixiecrat characterizes Democrats in the same way, but most of the time the Dixiecrats are the ones who actually get caught.

Ga Values

June 22nd, 2012
6:43 am

Kris

June 21st, 2012
11:59 pm

Reed claims that the bidding at Hartsfield were open & fair… result all his cronies got the contracts and the little/really disadvantaged bidders got nothing. The $600,000.000.00 for the beltline is all about corruption, it will do NOTHING to improve congestion.

[...] Party and Georgia Conservatives in Action joined the Transportation Leadership Coalition in its opposition to the preamble of the T-SPLOST ballot question. The groups called on the governor, attorney general and secretary of state to remove the offending [...]

findog

June 22nd, 2012
6:59 am

Proud,
Please, you expect even a moderately intelligent voter to believe that this tax will not result in a shift of DOT funds to the general fund of the state. You state part goes to maintenance, which should be in the DOT budget already. You miss the portion going to local governments, without string, where it will be used for overdue maintenance and repair; those funds then going into their general fund accounts.

This is nothing more than a scam to allow GOP politicians to keep their, “no new taxes,” pledge to Grover; without regard for what their constituents need. If it was so important why did it take two years pass and then postponed for three years.

JUST VOTE NO!

findog

June 22nd, 2012
7:08 am

Proud,
Here’s a few ideas:
Instead of a regressive tax on everything except fuel why not update the fuel tax; which has not changed since the great oil embargo of 1974?
How about removing the authority of the governor to manipulate changes in the fuel tax to gain tax cutter cred?
How about removing special giveaway’s to massive corporations like Delta when they remove their fuel taxes?
How about voting NO so the politicians have to actually do their jobs and create a sustainable transportation improvement/maintenance model?

DonnaS.

June 22nd, 2012
8:13 am

UGA75, LOVE LOVE LOVE your analogy! Perfectly spot-on! I just may have to use that one myself sometime.

hiram, you are exactly right…no one has mentioned the traffic nightmare that the construction work would cause once they finally start on these projects.

Bob Loblaw

June 22nd, 2012
8:18 am

@Findog:
The T-SPLOST was originally to apply to motor fuel taxes until the House Committee voted to exempt it. The Senate agreed.

To everyone who thinks the T-SPLOST sucks for whatever reason–there were two opportunities to pass something different. One was a regional plan similar to T-SPLOST but simply raised revenues to be spent on projects in the region that were basically already teed up at DOT. The other was a statewide 1% sales tax to pay for a list of projects that would be codified, i.e. you’d have to have an Act of the General Assembly signed by the Governor to move a project.

Those both failed when the Lt. Gov and the Speaker wouldn’t agree. Insert Sonny. It was T-SPLOST by regional commission or nothing. This is what emerged.

Is it great? No. But the elected officials closest to the citizens represented their county’s interests at the roundtable. Project list creation was about as transparent as it gets. A set of rules governed what projects were eligible.

Anything to get Atlanta moving is better than nothing. The help for interchanges and major intersection improvements alone will make the ride to and from work better for millions.

Whoever said that traffic was going to be worse because of construction delays needs a cup of coffee. How in the eff are you ever going to grow without growing pains? Beam me up.

MARTA Rida

June 22nd, 2012
8:27 am

Do any of these Tea Party activist have day jobs or are they stay-at-home moms and retired people. They must be to have enough time to dig up crap like this.

DonnaS.

June 22nd, 2012
8:30 am

Since when have politicians ever ever used a tax increase in the way in which it was intended? This is not opinion. Check the history. If any of these funds are to go toward a high speed rail that many people seem to be discussing, has anyone looked to MARTA as an example? Though there are a many loyal users and it comes in very handy for a large event what is the loss or gain in profits? High speed rails never seem to be profitable and they always seem to be a maintenance nightmare. Before we even consider a project on that large scale why don’t we get spending under control first instead of giving the politicians yet another slush fund? And yes, that is what would happen. We all know it. Though the funds from T-SPLOST would stay in the region, the regions that did not pass T-SPLOST would be punished by not receiving federal funds, mainly gas tax funds, from the state. Under state law, Georgia would be allowed to “redirect” this money away from the opposing regions.

Donna

June 22nd, 2012
8:32 am

MARTA Rida,

“Do any of these Tea Party activist have day jobs or are they stay-at-home moms and retired people. They must be to have enough time to dig up crap like this.”

Are you implying that stay-at-home moms do not work? Do you think they sit around all day long and eat bon-bons?

Proud Voter

June 22nd, 2012
9:11 am

OH, come on, this argument is not about stay-at-home-moms. Get your dish towel off your shoulder. This is about trying to do something good for Georgia.

Is t-splost perfect? No. But it’s the best thing this sinking ship of state Georgia has got going for it now. What else are we to do? We are just weeks away from July 31st and there is no time to re-do and re-do again. We’ve got to learn to move forward and stop standing still whining about ill-conceived conceptions and try to do something positive as a group.

Findog, you have a point in your response, but none of those change or improve t-splost now. Those are separate issues for voters. I certainly didn’t vote for Perdue or Deal. I know how they keep their “books.” But the Republicans will not have it any other way and they seem to have the majority vote here. You are right. We do need to replace many of the politicians.

But at least let’s not stay in the totally inert mode and do nothing to improve ourselves. Why not join something positive, be involved, and make this d*#@ thing work like it’s supposed to work. We need roads, bridges, and rail. Give Georgia modern ingress and egress into the world so maybe our economy has a chance of avoiding the whirling cesspool of economic defeat that is certainly to happen if we don’t join the twenty-first century in transportation.

Shar

June 22nd, 2012
10:04 am

@Proud – why on earth do you think that doing the wrong thing is better than doing nothing? For $8B, too!

This is not supposed to be a jobs program, it is supposed to provide value to Atlanta by improving transportation around and through the metro area. This does not do that. Period. Even ARC admits it.

The only way to make substantive improvements in urban transportation is by creating effective, useful public transportation. Cities with such systems are utterly reliant on them, and for good reason. Getting cars off the road will directly affect pollution, congestion, the waste of urban space on endless parking decks, oil consumption and will succeed in moving people more effectively.

The people who make money off roads, paving, parking empires, gasoline and all the related businesses, as well as the developers who have bought or optioned property away from potential transit lines, stand to lose a lot if such a system is created. And they are the folks who drew up the lists. Yes, the self-same folks who have drained the DOT budgets through “cost overruns” and diversions like Sonny’s special road, and who have manipulated behind the scenes to continue the toll on GA 400 and create more money with tolls everywhere they can squeeze them in.

Widening intersections is not “joining the twenty-first century in transportation” – it’s Eisenhower-building-the-interstates thinking. T-SPLOST is indeed a slush fund – 15% of the money raised is being delivered in a lump to counties to do what they like with it as long as it is “transportation oriented”, which means they’ll cut their county road budgets, use this instead and spend the commeasurate general funds on whatever they want to.

Even the TSPLOST people cannot justify this pig on merits. It simply doesn’t have any. So they make threats (”no Plan B!”) and vague promises (”Improve traffic!”), spend millions on advertising and do their best to rig the election in their favor. Open your eyes and stop spouting empty rhetoric. We need to send this back and get a list that provides value to us, the taxpayers, for our investment.

Proud Voter

June 22nd, 2012
10:43 am

Spoken well, Shar. Short-sighted and selfish, but spoken well.

Mild Mannered Moderate

June 22nd, 2012
11:16 am

I was very upsedt when they changed contract law to make me a serf. That was bad. I didn’t know that they lied about the IPLOST bill too. I may have to vote against it now. On the other hand, I don’t lke traffic. On the other hand, I have been convinced that trains are good. On the other other hand, this doesn’t have much to do with trains. Mousillini is involved somehow but I don’t understand that part.

MARTA Rida

June 22nd, 2012
1:38 pm

“Are you implying that stay-at-home moms do not work? Do you think they sit around all day long and eat bon-bons?”
Yes, that’s not a really job. I was raised by a single mom that worked so stay-at moms are not working real jobs. If you say having more than 1-2 kids, then they shoulda kept their legs close.

Mike

June 22nd, 2012
4:08 pm

I’m just sick of the whole mess. Instead of leaders we have career politicians who are on the take from lobbyists. They’ve been kicking the proverbial transportation can down the road for the past 30 years, fearing backlash from the voters in the northern surburbs. What really pisses me off is these people fled to the surburbs when Maynard Jackson was elected mayor of Atlanta, and now all of the attention lately has been on making improvements to Ga. 400. All of this (blank) about a lousy 1% sales tax is baloney; they don’t want MARTA because they don’t want ‘those people’ in their communities. Every industrialized nation, particularly China, has invested billions into their high speed rail service and it’s working. Only TN spends less on transportation than Atlanta and that in itself is an embarassment since Atlanta wants to consider itself an international city. If this doesn’t pass then those people under the Gold Dome are going to have to grow some, sacrifice their ‘careers’ and make the necessary cuts to get this done. It will have to be like civil and voting rights – decisions will have to be made that will benefit everyone as a whole and just not a few who refuse to be dragged into the 21st century. If you don’t like the idea of mass transit then move to MS.