In assessing a constitutional amendment, the first rule should be “beware of the easy soundbite” – because it is often wrong.
Such is the case with Amendment #2, which has been pilloried as “sending school dollars to developers” when it actually only keeps the law the way it was until the Court intervened in February of this year.
The reality: Amendment 2 will give voters the chance to take back lawmaking from the Court and approve something they have already approved in a statewide vote – but was taken away from them by one activist lawyer and the Georgia Supreme Court (you know, the same ones that almost declared capital punishment unconstitutional)
1. TAD’s were created by a 1984 constitutional amendment that passed with 72% of the vote statewide.
2. Every single TAD created since then was also approved by a vote of the citizens within the jurisdiction they have been used in a public referendum (for example, Gwinnett just approved TAD’s this summer by a wide margin).
3. Two or three levels of local government – including the elected school board – also had to sign off on all new TAD’s since then.
4. Since that time, TAD’s have been operating using the new tax dollars created by their existence (including new dollars created in the school tax digest) to pay for the infrastructure they need. Everyone is well aware that TAD’s have involved the use of new school tax dollars (no EXISTING school dollars) since 1984.
5. The Georgia Supreme Court – acting on a single-party lawsuit by an activist lawyer in Atlanta – overturned all these levels of voter and elected official approval and used one part of the Constitution to overturn another part of the Constitution in February of this year.
6. The entire effect of Amendment #2 is to take TAD law back where it was. In other words, it actually changes far less in state law than either of the other 2 amendments.
7. TADs have never – and will not in the future – use a dime of existing school tax dollars. Period. TAD’s create brand new revenue that did not exist before and use that revenue for a short time to pay off the infrastructure bonds – and then deliver all that new revenue to the schools and local government.
The anti-TAD activist will point to isolated problems in a couple of TAD projects, but that’s life. The overwhelming reality of TAD’s is they have been very successful in promoting high-quality redevelopment such as Atlantic Station. They are used equally well around the country.
And when the economy goes soft like recent months, it seems foolish for us to buy into the soundbites of the other side and take away forever even the option of using the TAD financing tool, even if the voters and local elected officials approve of it and want to use it.
Voter choice and local option vs. soundbites and Court control. Make up your own mind.