Commuter tax? Don’t count on it.

Oh, my, here we go again.  Another mayoral election looms in Atlanta, a city of padded payrolls and excess spending and what’s the cure candidates are embracing?  Finding money from somebody else.

Candidates were asked for their views on a commuter tax.  Here’s the answer from candidate Mary Norwood:  “We could break this logjam if — assisted by a forward-thinking governor — we could make a commuter tax not about Atlanta but about equalizing burdens throughout the region; net daily destination jurisdictions should get some kind of contribution from net daily sources of employee outflow.”

Admittedly, her embrace of a commuter tax is more nuanced than most.  Typically, a commuter tax is seen as a way to punish those “suburban” dwellers who work downtown, where they drink water, flush toilets, pollute, cause garbage and cry out for police protection.  That’s the 1970s view that lingers. 

The reality is that a commuter tax would be a policy disaster.  There are no barriers — no oceans or  mountains — that hold employees and employers intown.  Besides, water and sewer service charges, employer property taxes and the sales taxes paid by workers from out of district compensate local governments for services.  No “forward-thinking” Republican governor is in the running who will propose a commuter tax.

About a fifth of Atlanta’s general fund budget goes to pay pensions.  It really is time for the city to get its financial house in order and stop looking elsewhere for a bail-out.  One prudent course for Atlanta and all other state and local governments would be to shift all future employees to a pension plan that is the equivalent of a 401(k).  Politicians have to eliminate the temptation to hide future costs and to satisfy complaining employee by passing the cost to shut them up to the grandchildren.

The mantra among elected officials in Atlanta is “it’s not my fault.”  Well, it is.  There’s no “forward-thinking” governor coming to the rescue and there’s not rich uncle or non-resident to tax.  The mayoral election is Nov. 3.  The politicians should stop kidding themselves and the voters.

35 comments Add your comment

bob

June 22nd, 2009
8:09 am

Can someone tell these politicians that they are allowed to cut spending to balance a budget.

Road Scholar

June 22nd, 2009
8:16 am

“Typically, a commuter tax is seen as a way to punish those “suburban” dwellers who work downtown…”

Some may view it as punishment, but Jim ,how do you get them to pay for services that they use? Few City dwellers go to the outlying counties. Has a study been done to measure the “donations” the suburban commuters already make, and its relationship to services they use and expect?

While I admit that the COA is overstaffed, police and fire jobs lay vacant. Also, if they would do away with some of their giveaways (fans, etc.) revenue needed for basic services would improve.

Should transportation or infrastructure dollars expedatures be limited in the suburbs to improve densities in the COA and other activity centers (areas of denser growth)? Rapid transit could then be utilized to handle a higher % of repeat trips.

Road Scholar

June 22nd, 2009
8:21 am

In response to Bob’s comment, I agree also. Get the budgets focused on the core functions that government should handle. Get rid of the fluff. If a service is needed, then government should handle it or, if it is minor, then someone in the private sector will find a way to furnish it. The question is then, define needed.

Ga Values

June 22nd, 2009
8:55 am

” It really is time for the city to get its financial house in order and stop looking elsewhere for a bail-out.”

This has been the case since Maynard Jackson but it won’t happen in our life times.

Chris Broe

June 22nd, 2009
9:11 am

Don’t you just love Mary Norwood’s quote? She doesn’t start the sentence with a preposition the way Cynthia Tucker does. She uses a run-on sentence to take an obligatory swipe at Perdue the way Jay Bookman does. She makes a requisite nod to defining the new budgetary conservatism by overusing conditional tense qualifiers (coulda woulda shoulda) the way Jim Wooten does. If she had begun and ended the quote with “duh” she’d be leading in the polls, (and would make a great AJC editor).

The real solution to a commuter tax are more New York City style toll roads on the interstates leading into atlanta, (only effective daily from 7am to 9am. Make it hurt. Tax these uber-yuppies till they squeal. They’ll start ride-sharing, (solving another problem).

Shawny

June 22nd, 2009
9:14 am

commuter tax. idiot

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
10:52 am

Retired Gen. Tommy R. Franks and retired Adm. Joseph W. Prueher have
resigned from Bank of America’s board, bringing to seven the number of
directors to leave since the bank’s shareholder meeting in April.

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
10:53 am

The U.S. Federal Reserve is considering dramatic changes to the
repurchase markets where banks around the world raise overnight dollar
loans,

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
10:54 am

The notion that a given financial institution is “too big to fail”
needs to end, Sheila Bair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
said on CNBC.

Emily

June 22nd, 2009
10:54 am

Chris Broe’s genius continues to grow.

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
10:54 am

JPMorgan Chase disclosed that it expected to record a $1.1 billion
charge in its second-quarter results after returning $25 billion in
taxpayer funds to the government.

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
10:55 am

Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to unveil a 9.6 million pound ($15.8
million) pay package for chief executive Stephen Hester this week,

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
10:56 am

Bain Capital, the private investment firm, said it had agreed to invest
as much as $432 million to acquire a minority stake in Gome Electrical
Appliances, one of China’s biggest retailers.

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
10:57 am

The private equity firm Avista Capital Partners stands to take a big
loss in the bankruptcy reorganization of The Star Tribune of
Minneapolis.

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
10:58 am

Companies led by the billionaire Simon Halabi have defaulted on 1.15
billion pounds ($1.9 billion) of bonds backed by nine London office
buildings, including some occupied by JPMorgan Chase.

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
10:59 am

R. Allen Stanford, the Texas billionaire, and a former Antiguan
regulatory official have been indicted on fraud and obstruction charges
related to a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, the Justice Department said.

Big Bucks GOP doing the Lords work

June 22nd, 2009
11:00 am

Investigators in the Bernard Madoff scandal are seeking more time to
calculate the amount of money lost and the number of investors
defrauded in their efforts to determine restitution.

booger

June 22nd, 2009
11:38 am

The thing that puzzles me about this is that Atlanta, as every other large city, does everything possible to attract companies and people to Atlanta and then complains that they put an undo burden on Atlanta taxpayers. If this is true, would’nt it stand to reason that they should dicourage people from coming into town.

Same thing happens in the suburbs. First there is the campaign to attract business and development to increase the tax base, then when development comes, they have to raise taxes for new schools, police, fire etc.

Seems to me the only logical course is for all these places to start a “stay the hell out of my town campaign”. In fact if people have school age children maybe tax incentives to leave town would be in order.

clyde

June 22nd, 2009
12:27 pm

Chris Broe has the only idea that will actually work.$20 per vehicle toll on every road leading into Atlanta.

conservative democrat

June 22nd, 2009
12:46 pm

If you try to sit, they’ll tax your seat. If you try to walk they’ll tax your feet.
Mary Norwood is a moron.

Pubs=Psychotalk

June 22nd, 2009
1:05 pm

Hapless Handel, tohe loser in the gubenetorial election primary by a ton, suffered another defeat in the S. Ct. and failed to escape Section 5 Supervision of Voting Rights. While the Supremes pointed towards Congress–that change ain’t gonna happen cause pubtards can’t get elected there.

The ruling was 8-1 and the village idiot , Thomas who is too dumb to ask a question in oral argument in 18 years was the lone dissent of course.

Pubs=Psychotalk

June 22nd, 2009
1:07 pm

Georgia will continue to lose hdreds of million in business relocations because it cannot and will not improve roads, schools or fund mass transit. We Be Stupid JawJaws should be the mandatory licence plate. The writer of this blog has seen these presentations at countless breafasts and luncheons as has the governor, and they both pretend to ignore them.

Billy Bob

June 22nd, 2009
1:09 pm

As long as there is a potential “White Knight” in the form of the state level taxation, the city of Atlanta will continue it’s profligate spending.

This issue ain’t nearly so much about fiscal responsibility BY the mayor as it is about her fiscal responsibility TO the voters. And, those Atlanta voters simply want what, say, Grady Hospital wants – more money from those who are not Atlanta voters to pay for services for those who are.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Pubs=Psychotalk

June 22nd, 2009
1:39 pm

Atlanta voters/taxpayers pay for the vast majority of services in the counties outside of Atlanta through taxes including the pork boondoggles passed perenially by the hicks in the Jaw jaw legislature.

One severe burn admission from an accident on 75 or building outside Atlanta can deliver a $350,000 patient expense for Grady via chopper, and often does.

booger

June 22nd, 2009
1:48 pm

As the twenty first century progresses, the whole idea of a city as the central hub of activity will wane. their is no longer a need for most employees to go to work. This is especially true for most office jobs such as those you find in a city. Our suburbs are full of people right now who only check in with their office once every week or so. Companies will find they do not need high priced real estate in the center of a city to function.

As this occurs, the functions which do require on site personnel will more and more migrate to outlying ares to avoid the cost, traffic, and if it comes to pass, commuter taxes.

Any large investment in central city infracture at this time will ultimately be a waste.

findog

June 22nd, 2009
1:53 pm

You could solve the commuter tax by earmarking one percent of the six the state takes from us to the local where those earnings were made. Problem is that then places like the Governor’s Houston County will not get the amount of welfare their local government’s have come to rely upon. I remember when my family moved here in 1973 and the good people like Hosea, whose constituency was the poor of every color, were fighting to keep fairs at a quarter. A true conservative would be calling for local control and to get the state out of MARTA’s business, unless they want to kick in some funding, but that would take away from our poor country cousin’s.

JIMBO

June 22nd, 2009
2:55 pm

THE POST office may be the next too-big thing. If it continues on its present course, the U.S. Postal Service stands to post $6 billion to $12 billion in losses by the end of the fiscal year. By the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2009, it had racked up an operating loss of more than $2 billion, almost equal to its total losses last year. So far, the Postal Service has depended on loans from the Federal Financing Bank, a federal borrowing agency, to help make up the difference, but it is fast approaching its $15 billion credit limit. Something has to give.

The Postal Service has asked Congress to omit a rider on an annual appropriations bill that mandates six-day service, opening the possibility of five-day delivery as a cost-cutting measure. It has also requested a temporary relaxation of its obligation to its pension program, enabling it to put nearly $2 billion toward breaking even.

Both these short-term fixes fail to address the challenges facing the Postal Service. Before computers, people depended on the mail to maintain relationships and conduct business. No longer. Overall mail volume has been in a nosedive for seven years. It plummeted 14.9 percent in the last quarter alone, outpacing the service’s grimmest forecasts. Postal officials blame the economy. But the recession has only accelerated a transition to newer forms of communication that was already underway. For instance, one of the biggest declines in first-class mail last quarter was from people filing their taxes online.

The Postal Service has made valiant efforts to improve customer service and build its market share in shipping. But all its recovery plans revolve around increasing the volume of traditional mail. Suggestions for how to “Use the Full Potential of the Internet” in its Vision 2013 plan were limited to steps such as revamping its Web site and encouraging business sites to offer to mail information to customers. The service must adjust to changing times — and fast.

Europe’s increasingly privatized mail services offer exciting examples of postal possibilities in the 21st century. They are leaner and greener than the U.S. service because they work with, not against, the Internet. Switzerland’s Swiss Post, for example, employs green technology, providing customers with secure, address-linked online mailboxes where they can view scanned images of their mail and decide whether to virtually “open” it, discard it or have it physically mailed to them. This system has greatly increased efficiency, promoted recycling and decreased junk mail.

Such are the steps the U.S. Postal Service might take if it were a real company and not a hybrid hamstrung by a large and heavily unionized workforce, congressional management, and an antiquated business model. Instead of its short-term cost-cutting measures, it needs to reduce its giant fixed costs to continue its appointed rounds. The Postal Service must reinvent itself for the 21st century, starting with a plan that doesn’t rely on the resurgence of traditional mail. To do this will require innovative leadership, freedom from congressional micromanagement and an understanding of the possibilities of new technology that goes beyond building a better Web site.

findog

June 22nd, 2009
3:20 pm

Pubs=Psychotalk @1:05
The pride of South Georgia made an inquiry during a case about lynching so he is actually one for eighteen…

findog

June 22nd, 2009
3:25 pm

Billy Bob @ 1:09,
I think right now they just want to be able to use their own funds without some South Georgia political welfare king wanting authority to appoint more of the MARTA Board. How about a little local control and stopping the rural communities from writing their own budgets with metro’s taxes?

UGADawg83

June 22nd, 2009
3:36 pm

I’ll pay a commuter tax where I use services and don’t live if I can vote for the leadership that imposes the tax.

getalife

June 22nd, 2009
4:14 pm

Ya’ll seen the guv of South Caroilina?

His last phone call was in Atlanta and he’s gone missing.

getalife

June 22nd, 2009
4:45 pm

“Update: The State reports that he’s been in touch and is fine, so no foul play here, just dereliction of duty. Whew!”

Presidential like w.

Geez.

Pubs=Psychotalk

June 22nd, 2009
8:15 pm

No matter what the commuter population that lives in the burbs or the city proper, there will always be a huge stress on the city infrastructure and will always be a need to keep it in shape.

Kas

June 23rd, 2009
9:50 am

Shouldn’t it be noted that most of the other candidates came out AGAINST the commuter tax?

david wayne osedach

June 23rd, 2009
11:26 am

You can’t enter central London, England without paying commuter tax. This cuts down on peak hour congestion and brings in sorely needed revenue.