Per the request of several commenters, we’ll open a discussion of Amendment 2. This amendment would allow the state to tax an extra $10 every year for every car tag you buy. Notice the word tax. That is what this is. You can try to call it a “fee” all day long, but it is revenue collected by state government to fund a somewhat nebulous concept of “trauma care” that is not directly related to the users who pay. It’s a tax.
But, because most of the legislators have drank from Grover Norquist’s Kool-aid at some point, they can never vote for anything that is a tax. Thus, the history of this legislature has been to try to make the voters tax themselves via referendums and constitutional amendments. And, they very much prefer the term “fee” to “tax”. Amendment two allows Georgians to tax themselves an additional $10 per year, per car. It doesn’t sound like much, but when was the last time you left the tag office saying “Dang, that was cheap. I just wish my tax on that car was even more! What will I ever do with this money left over here on my birthday?”
To make the idea of citizens taxing themselves seem more palatable, the interests behind Amendment 2 are running commercials that are highly explotative of parents who have gone through the worst thing life can ever throw at them – the loss of their child. Yet, several of the examples of the child dying after an accident don’t appear to be cases where a “trauma center” would even be helpful if it had been located next door to the grieving parent’s home. This sets this amendment up to fail my “If it’s ‘for the children’, it’s probably bad policy test.”
Now, let’s talk about the concept of paying “just $10 more” to fund trauma care. For every Republican who loves to hate the City of Atlanta (let’s face it, that’s probably 3/4 of our readers), think back to when the city reduced police and fire services last year and then said they must have tax increases to restore services. What was your reaction? Clearly, the City of Atlanta cut essential services to cause pain on the electorate so that they would be willing to pay more taxes rather than the city finding a way to cut non-essential services.
How is that example any different than getting Georgians to vote to tax themselves an extra $10 for the essential service of trauma care, save the mechanism involved to initiate the tax increase? I believe it is not.
The fact of the matter is, we elect our representatives to make tough choices. Governing is hard. Abdicating responsibility of prioritizing spending based on available revenues by punting the choice to citizens via referendum is now the go-to solution from our leaders. Whether trauma care or transportation, SPLOSTS or LOSTS, our officials want the burden of funding needed services to come from the citizens rather than to look at cutting existing programs to fund other programs of higher priority.
Amendment 2 is a gimmick, designed to raise revenue by exploiting the fears of parents by invoking the horrible deaths of several Georgian children, as told by their parents. The method used to build public support for this bill alone should be reason for voting no. Sending a message to our elected leaders to actually lead, and make some tough choices instead of deferring the heavy lifting to an already overtaxed electorate should be enough of a reason to remove any remaining doubt.
I’m voting no on Amendment 2. I expect it to pass. And much like Super Speeder before it, I expect no significant change in Georgia’s trauma network/delivery well after the funds have been collected. And spent.