Wednesday, June 13, 2012

TSPLOST: Penny-lty for Georgians

On July 31, 2012, Georgians registered voters will say no or yes to the tax increase for all purchases made in the state. The TSPLOST referendum (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sale Tax) — is one of the most important economic development opportunities in our state’s history, according to the official propaganda. If passed in all regions, it would pump up to $19 billion in direct investment into the state’s economy over the next 10 years while connecting communities, reducing congestion and improving road safety. Do not be fooled by the name. This transportation tax nothing have to do with mass transportation or public transportation services at all.

In 2010 the Georgia General Assembly passed the transportation bill and the Governor signed into law. The bill was drafted in 4 years. Regional roundtables made up of county commission chairs and mayors were formed in each of Georgia’s regional commission districts with little or no participation of communities activists.

Each group worked with the "public" and the Georgia Department of Transportation to create a list of transportation projects for their region. Those projects have been vetted both by GDOT and "voters" through public hearings. Lists were finalized on Oct. 15, 2011.

All funds generated through the 2012 TSPLOST would stay in the region in which they were raised and be distributed in two ways:

75 percent would go to the regional projects on the approved list — many of which have been on the drawing boards for years but lacked the funding to go forward.

25 percent would be returned to the region to be used for local projects chosen by city and county officials. Cities and counties will receive these extra funds in direct proportion to their population and the number of road miles in their jurisdiction.

If passed by a region’s voters, the TSPLOST will be in effect for 10 years. It cannot be collected beyond this 10-year period unless the voters in the region approve an extension.

Why should voters say “yes” to the 2012 TSPLOST?
"Despite our fast-growing population, Georgia spends less per capita on transportation than almost any other state. This is beginning to make our state less attractive to employers and negatively impact our quality of life. Across the state, bridges are falling apart, roads are unpaved and in disrepair, and truck traffic clogs community streets. The states we compete with for new jobs have taken transportation seriously, investing in it while Georgia has stalled."

Why should voters "no" to the 2012 TSPLOST?
Richmond County and Columbia Counties are Donor Counties, giving up an estimated $5 million and $2 million respectively, to fund the 25% discretionary funds for the other 11 counties. McDuffie County is said to be also a minor donor county, although Al Gray, an analyst, suggests it has a very slight benefit of less than $100,000 over 10 years.

It is a 14.2% tax increase. Living costs double in less than 5 years (see Rule of 72). It compounds the 14% Georgia Power rate increases.

The $840 million figure the Georgia Chamber of Commerce is presenting is %$^&#@. It is built on a wild income growth figure of 8% next year. Who is getting 8% pay increases? Their own figure is $689 million, apples to apples. Even that is too high by $50 million because the “low case” numbers are known to be off for this year by more than 50%.

It introduces a whole new level of government. It has its own governing body, revenue stream, financial apparatus, and it calls for new state/regional positions (House Bill 277 New Code section, lines 236-329) written into the bill.

It turns over nearly all funding in the rural counties (HB 277, line 786-789) to Department Of Transportation (DOT), an agency this whole deal is bailing out after it lost track of its contract obligations, a failure so bad that Governor Sonny Perdue accused DOT of "ENRON accounting."

This legislation creates a nightmare for retailers as it requires separate sales and use tax reporting for each location. (See HB 277 lines 762-768).

17% of the revenues collected on motor fuels in Georgia go into the General Fund, not transportation. If transportation is the priority claimed, why is this true? What about the $750,000  to take a black bear census and to build bear underpasses on a state highway? Is that a transportation 'priority?'

Columbia County has huge funds from SPLOST which it uses for road improvements even on state highways. DOT keeps the motor fuel taxes. This is a third huge pot of money. Neither of the other two go away!

Georgia needs to create, develop or improve public transportation. Atlanta already has MARTA but even there community activists are calling to vote "no" since the Roundtables failed miserably to suggest improving the public transportation system to service minority communities or needed areas.

Metro Augusta is crying for a public transportation to connect people to work, to play or entertainment. More fancy roads with people without cars, people who cannot go to work for lack of transportation, is making the TSPLOST another politicians and bureaucrats scam at taxpayers expenses.

TSPLOST penalize georgians for being environmentally conscience and buying more fuel efficiency cars and driving less to save money, among other reasons.

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