“If we don’t pass it, the signal is disastrous”

Donald Ratajczak, formerly of Georgia State, spoke to the Council for Quality Growth yesterday and said you better vote for next year’s TSPLOST if you want Georgia’s economy to improve:

While many are hanging the hope of prosperity on the July transportation sales tax vote, Ratajczak said he and other economists met Tuesday and decided to be very conservative in estimates about its economic effect.

It may not bring a million jobs or fix all of Atlanta’s woes, he said. But if voters reject the 10-year, 1-percent tax the region will have little to defend itself when other parts of the country try to draw business away from the area.

“If we don’t pass it, the signal is disastrous. It makes us very difficult to attract anybody,” he said, adding that while it is hard to put a number on the economic impact, the vote will gauge how serious people are about tackling the region’s No. 1 issue. “I’m not going to underestimate the importance of this vote.”

Agree? Disagree?

Discuss.

44 comments

  1. Calypso says:

    Since he left GaState, Ratajczak was tailored his musings to fit the desired message of the group paying his speaking fee. I’ve heard him speak several times in the past year and have learned to place little stock in his pronouncements.

  2. bullFrog says:

    “…be very conservative … the region will have little to defend itself … ‘the signal is disastrous … not going to underestimate the importance of this vote…'”

    Rataj-tata-czak has never understood the term “conservative.”

  3. 22bons says:

    You missed the best quote from Ratajczak: “Atlanta’s future is all about the transportation tax vote.” Seriously? If I wanted to be mean I’d hop in the way back machine and quote Ratajczak’s forecast of Atlanta’s economic prospects prior to the bursting of our housing bubble. But that would just be mean.

    Instead I’ll simply say that I agree that congestion imposes economic costs on Metro Atlanta, that congestion inhibits our growth prospects, and that we need to treat congestion as a serious problem. TSPLOST, which resembles the famous horse designed by committee, is not a serious solution to congestion. It’s an adhoc band aid that does not address the fundamental problem in a coherent and meaningful way.

    • freebird says:

      I agree, but I think the message is not really about the specifics of this plan, it is about political dysfunction. In other words, are we a region that can come together, address our challenges head-on and lay the groundwork for growth? Or, are we so divided that it is politically impossible to come to a consensus on measures to improve our competitiveness, thereby addressing our unemployment problem. Deal and Reed working together is a positive sign, but the way this referendum is playing out so far (and even the need to use a referendum as the vehicle for getting something done) is not.

  4. Charlie says:

    I agree with the statement that the signal is disasterous.

    The presumption that the blame should lie with the voters, and not those who designed this politically expedient non-solution to a major problem, is asinine.

    • bgsmallz says:

      +1B

      How can we have “leaders” continually roll out the message that ‘we’ must pass this measure in order to save the region when they had the power to just do it themselves? Last time I checked, that was what representative government was about…putting those who should lead in positions of leadership…oh well.

      I’m not going to let it stop me from voting for it. I 100% agree with the message.

    • 22bons says:

      Exactly. I think a better way forward is not to press forward with a flawed approach, but to ditch the current TSPLOST proposal and start again.

      It will take the same kind of political savvy and expenditure of political capital that has been displayed in dealing with dredging the Savannah. Nathan Deal and Kasim Reed have shown they have what it takes to accomplish this and I hope they go for an encore with a replacement for TSPLOST.

    • CobbGOPer says:

      +100

      Blaming the voters… Classic. They forget we elect them to take care of these things, because we’re too busy trying to keep our jobs. Instead, they make this crap a ‘referendum’ and push it on us, so that when it fails they get to say “don’t blame me, YOU voted it down” if/when negative consequences appear down the road.

    • Three Jack says:

      spot on charlie. blaming voters for this disaster instead of the politicians shows yet again why people stopped paying attention to d-rat long ago.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      Charlie for President!!
      By the way the DOT has been busy wasting hugh amounts of money on busy work like engineering plans that would have to be redone if T-Splost passes.

      Gov. Deal just move state government offices out of Atlanta that would help traffic.

  5. You know what would help Georgia “defend itself when other parts of the country try to draw business away from the area” ? Not having a 8% sales tax in most counties. Tennessee has rates between 9% and 10% but they don’t have an income tax. With TSPLOST, ESPLOST, SPLOST, and LOST plus the state’s existing 4% Georgia will be sitting right at 8% on everything except groceries, and that exemption is at risk every legislative session – plus we have a state income tax.

    Whitfield County voters rejected a renewed SPLOST tax last month, and the school system there decided not to ask for a renewal of the ESPLOST in order to help the regular SPLOST pass. That means in July 2012 Whitfield County will have a sales tax rate of only 5%, almost the lowest in the southeast. People are going to flock there to buy big-ticket items once word of this break gets around.

    That is how we stay competitive, not adding more taxes on top of taxes for the government to sort of do the things it was supposed to be doing in the first place.

    http://www.cityoflafayettega.com/2010/10/sales-tax-creep/

    — LU

    • CobbGOPer says:

      Completely agree. Traffic is a problem, certainly, but companies aren’t leaving Atlanta because the traffic sucks. They leave because they find better tax deals elsewhere.

      • Walker County sits on the TN/GA state line. Hamilton County, Tennessee (Chattanooga, Volkswagen, Amazon, airport, becoming a high-tech hub, metro population right around .5 million residents) borders on Walker and currently has a sales tax of 9.25%. Walker County has a sales tax of 7%. The current difference has made a minimal impact on Hamilton County residents shopping here, but increasing our sales tax to 8% will make it even less desirable for Hamilton County residents to shop for anything here. If we defeat the TSPLOST and convince voters not to renew the SPLOST in 2013 (which has done nothing for us, the commissioner admits she doesn’t do road work with that money) we would have a sales tax of 6%. I think that would at least motivate more people who live there to shop here, even if it didn’t convince any new industries to actually relocate here.

        All of the local TSPLOST projects are garbage, if the tax does pass all it’s going to do is replace a couple two-lane bridges that the county would replace itself if not for the potential of TSPLOST paying for them, and build a five-lane highway to the TN/GA state line where it would meet a residential neighborhood in Chattanooga not capable of handling additional traffic, with no matching plans from our neighbor to the north.

        Bottom line: passing the tax will not do anything for Walker County’s roads, residents, or business appeal. Defeating it will keep us from being less competitive with Tennessee in regards to sales tax on retail stores and might even lead to a scenario where people living there intentionally come here to shop.

        — LU

        • chefdavid says:

          I am betting a lower tax rate will make more of an impact on attracting new companies in NW Georgia than our current Director of the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Director, Jeff Mullis. Funny how we are right next door to the Kubota plant in Chattanooga and they locate in another congressional district just to the east. What does that say? Maybe they are just big fans of Corey Smith.

  6. saltycracker says:

    Having followed Ratajczak for years he deserves listening too.
    Meeting transportation needs in metro Atlanta is important.
    The problem is that how they are planning on going about it is severely flawed.
    And the voters should recognize the failings of the planners with a “no” vote as presented.

    When it fails the voters will be the victims not the perps.

  7. bowersville says:

    Charlie and 22bons and others are spot on but and it’s a big BUT.

    From an AJC article by Aaron Gould Sheinin.

    Tea Party Groups around Georgia are mobilizing to challenge State elected officials they’ve deemed RINOS.

    It’s why Ralston and other lawmakers, including, Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chicamauga and Senate Republican whip Greg Goggins, R-Douglas are all under attack. “They are fiscally irresponsible,” Evelyn said pointing to their support for next years sales tax referendum. [Bill Evelyn, a founder of the State of Georgia TEA Party. Other TEA Party members were quoted in the article.]

    My words and I’ll quote a friend of mine that is an avid supporter of Paul Broun, “As the economy of Atlanta goes, so goes the State of Georgia.” Friends, Georgia is at a cross road. Do we grow our economy or do we wither away?

      • bowersville says:

        Harry, I threw in that last para starting with “My words………” to make it relevant to the thread.

        But I’ll stand on Georgia is at a cross road. Or let me explain it a little further. When Speaker Ralston is labeled a RINO the Republican Party is at a cross road. Grift got the point.

        • Charlie says:

          I really didn’t want to have to get into this today. Took a vacation day to finish a side project, still not even close to finishing it. Also wanted to address my concerns to Sheinin about the composition of the article directly first…

          Anyway, the source- Bill Evelyn – of the RINO! claims is someone who hasn’t ever supported any elected Republican that I’m aware of. He’s a two time McBerry supporter, and only chartered his “Tea Party” after the heavy lifting of many others had affected the last elections.

          His group’s first press release that I was aware of was a threat to primary Tom Graves. TOM FREAKING GRAVES! Not over his finanical issues, but because they thought his first few votes were “liberal”.

          Other people they’ve called liberal: Nathan Deal, Casey Cagle, Sue Everhart, Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Isakson, and virtually anyone else who’s ever been elected as a Republican and cast a vote or managed the party.

  8. benevolus says:

    I’m not sure the issue is even the taxes. New York is building a new water tunnel. France is building fancy new natural gas turbine electrical generation plant (built by GE!), there’s the Panama canal expansion, and many cities have already spent the money for the transportation infrastructure that we don’t have: Paris, London, New York, Toronto, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, Tokyo.

    The question is, do we want to be like those cities or like Charlotte, Birmingham, Dallas, and Orlando?

    • Charlie says:

      At least three of those four have active transit projects underway or have completed them.

      My companies Dallas office, in downtown Dallas, uses the downtown location in the West End and the train stop out front as part of why we can offer our end customers lower rates. Much like in Atlanta, office rents are much cheaper downtown, but this means nothing if there’s nowhere to park and hourly employees can’t get there.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        Atlanta is trailing Dallas (Dallas transit map: http://www.dart.org/maps/printrailmap.asp). Charlotte has momentum and is gaining. Further afield Denver and Seattle have and are making massive investments is various transit modes. Commuter rail in AZ, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis. There’s a lot going on in Californis.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          I look at that map of Dallas’ rail transit system (light rail AND commuter rail) and all that I can do is shake my head.

          Not only does Dallas have more miles of passenger rail transit track than Atlanta (Dallas has 106 miles of rail transit track to Atlanta’s 48 miles), but Dallas also has a couple of toll roads through its northern suburbs that can be defined as ‘Northern Arcs’ (TX 190-President George Bush Turnpike and TX 121) giving the city a total of THREE Northern Bypasses to Atlanta’s often totally gridlocked one (the I-285 Perimeter). The Dallas-Fort Worth area also has over a dozen major water supply reservoirs (most of them LOCALLY controlled) to Atlanta’s two federally-controlled water supply reservoirs.

          I’m not saying that Atlanta should have even one Outer Perimeter or Northern Arc Bypass, but the sheer number and seemingly ever-increasing amount of rail transit lines, toll roads and locally funded, controlled, managed and operated water control reservoirs reflects a totally different mindset in the Dallas-Fort Worth region and the State of Texas when it comes to making necessary infrastructure investments.

          Seven million people in a Dallas-Fort Worth region in which the very necessary infrastructure investments were made a long time ago. Six million people in the Atlanta Region and we’re still making outlandish excuses as to why we can’t (and WON’T) make the necessary (and critically-needed) investments in our vastly undersized transportation (and water and education) infrastructure.

          Still shaking my head.

        • Rambler1414 says:

          Add Phoenix to the list.

          if they haven’t passed Atlanta yet, they will be soon.
          Their investments in transit have been a remarkable success.

          • Max Power says:

            Phoenix didn’t open their light rail line until 2008 and they already have almost 1/2 much rail and Atlanta. My daughter live out there and they do seem to have their transit plans together.

  9. Not sure if it’s been discussed here, but 25% of the revenue raised by TSPLOST is guaranteed to local municipalities to use for whatever they choose.

    If you didn’t have that 25% kickback, how many of the state’s mayors and county commissioners would still be fighting to get this measure approved? Remove that local government bribe, and how many of the government-leader-heavy chambers of commerce around the state (along with the state chamber) would still be spending money to convince businesses and taxpayers that higher taxes are in their own best interests? Likely very few.

    — LU

      • Dave Bearse says:

        You bringing to attention metro Atlanta being singled out for different treatment by state T-SPLOST legislation re-highlights a reason the metro Atlanta T-SPLOST should be defeated—different treatment created by state GOP leaders unable to lead transportation, that increases state control of metro Atlanta transportation.

        Metro Atlanta Dems favoring T-SPLOST in its current form, and without tying MARTA changes to T-SPLOST, serve and empower the weak GOP transportation leadership that clearly disdains them.

        The Chamber isn’t going to be happy. There’s too much Georgia experience with the enactment of legislation despite the opposition of voters from them to buy the fairy tale that the fault that inferior legislation wasn’t approved lies with the voters.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          How much of the 2% sales tax that Fulton and DeKalb will be paying for regional transportation will be returned to those counties for use as they see fit?

          Half of 15% (the MARTA return being zero) is 7.5%. 7.5% is only 30% of the 25% that would be returned to 149 other Georgia counties.

  10. jiminga says:

    I live in south metro and as far as I can tell most of the “improvements” to be paid for by the TSPLOST will be on the north side. And most of the metro growth, when there was growth, for the last two decades has been in the south metro. I confess to not following all the back and forth on TSPLOST so my knowledge may be out of date, so please correct me if so.

    I might add the GDOT’s design/redesign of the I-85/Hwy 74 interchange is typical of their idiot status. In the first redesign they provided a two lane exit southbound that led to a three lane ramp, which solved most of the last second dives into the exit that had led to many accidents and closures of I-85 southbound. Entering I-85 from Hwy 74 northbound was a dedicated lane on I-85 that didn’t require a merge, helping to relieve the bottleneck on Hwy 74 northbound that normally extends for a few miles .

    The latest re-design did away with the second southbound exit lane and the dedicated entry lane northbound, thereby giving us the same problems as before. Now GDOT is spending current budget money to “study” the intersection.

    And we want to give these people more money? Not me.

    • Rambler1414 says:

      “And we want to give these people more money? Not me.”

      Is there a plan on the table that improves congestion and mobility for Metro Atlanta that doesn’t involve giving more money to GDOT?

      • jiminga says:

        No, and that’s my point. With all the money spent already, and the lack of cooperation between counties and municipalities, and the imbalance of the plans…additional taxes will be spent on solutions that don’t work.

  11. Skip says:

    It is nothing new when politicians, etc. attempt to stick their already, tax us up the kazoo, hands into my pockets whenever they opine the need to obtain additional funds rather than cut unnecessary hand outs to those that do not pay their share of the load. I, for one, am not going to vote to increase any taxes by 1 cent or any other amount until I am able to verify constitutional and conservative attitudes to operate with the funds that are available and to cut out the programs that do not benefit the mass of the tax paying population. Anyone, that is in the know, understands that Washington DC, the State of Georgia or any county or municipality does not and cannot create $$$ and they must take it from taxpayers. If anyone does not pay their fair share, then they cannot live off the sweat and tears of taxed to death Georgia workers. In addition, I am sick to death of hearing all the gloom and doom up ahead taxpayers if they don’t cough up more money. I ask of any politician, individual or group and from a federal, state or county government to place on a spread sheet and enlighten the taxpayers to the source of all income and comparatively speaking, account for every cent that is paid to whomever, and whatever programs. etc. and I mean down to the last cent and first and last name of individual recipients; then, after there is a full accounting, and only then, I may consider an increase in taxes but until I know all wasteful spending and fringe benefits, to the nonproductive are cut, federal, state and local governments might as well forget it! Remember, each year, Georgia taxpayers pay 2.3 billion dollars to illegal aliens. If governments do not know where to begin, start here.

  12. Baker says:

    http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/blog/capitol_vision/2011/12/tea-party-foe-of-transportation-tax.html

    If your opposition to the TSPLOST is because you think the list is bad or something, that’s one thing. If your opposition is because,

    “But on Friday, Tea Party activist Susan Stanton told a legislative study commission that regionalism flies in the face of home rule, a sacrosanct principle in Georgia of the right to local self-government established in the state constitution.”

    So you just build roads through your town with your town’s money and cross your fingers that they connect to a road in another area? That would be fine in the 1930’s. Unfortunately for Ms. Stanton and some other Tea Partiers, plenty of people live in Marietta and work in Duluth or all over the freaking place which requires some regional planning on transportation.

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