Editor's note: The following is an opinion piece from a Patch Local Voices blogger and does not necessarily reflect the views of Patch.
According to recent polling conducted by Rosetta Stone for WSB-TV, TSPLOST, or Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, is losing support in Metro Atlanta.
The poll indicated that 56 percent of metro Atlantans oppose the transportation referendum while only 33 percent support it. Twelve percent were undecided. Significantly, TSPLOST is losing support in Fulton and Dekalb counties for the first time.
Why is this legislation on transportation sputtering and struggling to survive? Supporters have spent big dollar amounts to promote the gargantuan transportation package, touting its promise to “untie Atlanta.” But closer analysis of the “project lists” reveals shocking shortcomings and the lack of a unified plan that could even begin to impact the traffic problems that prevail in metro Atlanta.
Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s issue analysis provides an in-depth look at the policies presented in this complex legislation. The transportation package divides Georgia into 12 regions, each voting separately on whether to raise sales tax by one cent. However, an individual city or county cannot simply vote to opt-out if the region passes the tax.
The projects specified on each of the regional project lists do not function together as a whole to solve the recurring traffic snarls that are earmarks of metro Atlanta. In fact, in farming out the lists to regional authorities rather than crafting a workable solution to the area's traffic woes, the legislature has utterly failed.
The GPPF analysis notes that
(a)n Atlanta project list focused on mobility and congestion mitigation would include a network of upgraded expressways, managed arterials and enhanced Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service. Modifying the Downtown Connector or creating a parallel expressway west of downtown could substantially reduce congestion.
Instead, TSPLOST allocates 52 percent of the metro Atlanta funding to rail transit. This amount of money is being wasted since “only 3.6 percent of metro Atlanta commuters use transit.”
It is also important to note that some of the was added by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and is being challenged as political interference and promotional language. The language that was added to the ballot follows:
“Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”
The Secretary of State’s addition to the ballot cited above amounts to unsubstantiated claims that are, in reality, false on each count.
University of Georgia professor Charles Bullock made the following observations on TSPLOST :
So although tons of money is being spent to encourage voting for the T-SPLOST and the support of the Chamber of Commerce, it looks like it will go down to defeat….We have the interesting phenomenon of disagreement between many GOP leaders and a group usually closely associated with the GOP (the Chamber).
Bullock concluded: "With GOP leadership unwilling to step forward and reassure conservative, anti-tax voters that the projects to be funded with the T-SPLOST are meritorious, there is scant prospect for approval."
Cheryl Lavette of Smart Girl Politics in Atlanta offered her view of the referendum:
VOTE NO to Georgia's largest tax increase in history on July 31st. Honestly, who would dare to raise taxes on us RIGHT NOW with 8.2% unemployment and anemic economic growth, not to even mention that it will do NOTHING to 'untie' Atlanta. Big business and contractors aim to benefit and are pumping money into the project. And, many calling themselves conservatives at our state Capitol are proponents of this referendum. We will remember when these officials are up for re-election. Seriously, the audacity!
Advance voting in Georgia is coming to a close, and the final votes will be cast on Tuesday, July 31st.