Clark Howard Endorses T-SPLOST

I’ve got to admit I’m a bit surprised by this one.  From a press release sent over by the Untie Atlanta Campaign:

Speaking on 750 WSB-AM Radio on Friday morning, Howard praised the citizen accountability review panel and said it was high-time Metro Atlanta started addressing its transportation challenges.

“I hate tax, that’s pretty obvious from everything I’ve said over the years, but I am emphatically for this. We as a metro area have no prospects for growth right now, nobody wants to move their companies here, we are flat on our backs right now,” Howard said. “We are so in the weeds here that if we do not adopt this and move forward, it’s not Armageddon but it means Atlanta moves from being one of the key cities of America to the backwater. We have to face the facts that we have to take a leap of faith. As things stand now, we are moving to the back of the pack.”

While Howard is known as a notorious penny pincher who is generally distrustful of government’s use of tax dollars, he said the right approach is to gather public input and develop a project list so the voters can see exactly where and how the money will be spent.

“I started off being completely opposed to this. The more I’ve learned about it, the more I think we need to do this,” Howard added. “This is our chance to have local control of the money and where the money goes. We collect the money here and we spend it here.”

Y’all make of it what you will. I remain undecided, slightly leaning against.

56 comments

  1. 5stringjeff says:

    Still not voting for it. Over half the money is going towards mass transit that will do almost nothing to relieve congestion. If 90% or more were going towards new road construction, I *might* consider voting for it.

  2. jiminga says:

    Howard says “This is our chance to have local control of the money and where the money goes. We collect the money here and we spend it here.”. Really? Is the project list on the ballot, so we can pick, cafeteria style, what projects will get done? And can we assume Howard lives on the north side because we south-siders will get nothing for our tax dollars and will have no control of where the money goes?

    The last I heard we can’t have any more highways until our air quality is solved, so if north-siders want mass transit they can pay for it themselves.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      Don’t you remember a story of Clark buying a foreclosure in Big Canoe because is wife is a Prepper who believes hard times are coming and doesn’t want to be in the city when…
      I am not kidding.

  3. Doug Deal says:

    Clark is a bit of a wide-eyed idealist on a number of things. I think he puts more faith in government than he should considering how they spend money in a way that is 180 degress out of phase to the way he does.

  4. sunkawakan says:

    No matter what the anti-mass transit crowd thinks, it’s an important part of the mix. Only the short-sighted think they can continue to only build roads to accommodate exploding traffic volume.

    • I’m willing to consider contributing more to mass transit projects via taxation after we join the rest of the world in reasonable fares. As I posted in another thread, I’ve spent over $10 on a one way ticket in San Francisco, Paris, Vienna and Rome just in the past year. You know what the highest amount a one way ticket costs on Marta? $2.50. Raise the user fees and look at other streams of income and then we’ll talk taxation as a last resort.

  5. ryanhawk says:

    The problem we are trying to solve is “congestion in Metro Atlanta”. Whatever you think of the list of projects, it is fairly clear at this point that TSPLOST does not really accomplish the intended objective of reducing congestion. Voters in every region need to reject the project list and demand leadership from their elected Representatives.

    1) The General Assembly needs to STOP diverting state gas tax funds to other purposes. Spend the dollars you are now diverting to increase road capacity and reduce congestion at key bottlenecks in metro Atlanta.

    2) Our Senators and US Reps need to find a way to bring home 100% of the federal gas tax dollars we now send to DC. We get less than 90% back now, and this comes with strings attached that increase costs by about 25%. Taking these two factors into account we currently get about 2 dollars worth of real value for every 3 dollars in federal gas tax that we pay.

  6. You can listen to Clark’s argument here (WSB radio archive): http://bit.ly/JrPo84

    And before you decide how you’re going to vote on July 31, why not take part in a “Wireside Chat”? The Atlanta Regional Commission will be hosting 12 community conversations about the transportation referendum over 6 evenings from June 4 – 14. Join the conversations by phone from your own home. Local officials and transportation professionals will listen to and answer your questions and concerns. Learn more and register at: http://bit.ly/JjUjXO

  7. gcp says:

    Perhaps Howard wants a quicker route from his Buckhead home to his million dollar plus Big Canoe vacation home or maybe to his Fla. vacation home or where ever else he has a home. He gives good advice concerning cell phone plans and travel info but much of his other advice is silly populism. I am voting no on this thing.

    • Salmo says:

      Railing against populism while bashing a public figure for having financial success and owning vacation properties?

      Awesome.

  8. Engineer says:

    For the same reasons Mr. Howard has said he supports it, as do I.

    -Money says in the regional district it came from.
    -Projects are voted on by a local board with representatives sent from each county (so all of them have a voice and vote)
    -All projects will be audited to ensure money is used appropriately.
    -It is a sales tax rather than another income or property tax which means everybody who spends money in that district pays money into that district.

    • saltycracker says:

      The fuel tax is not an income tax or property tax either.
      In Cherokee we get one road four laned, a bridge and some promise of money to sprinkle around, all that we’ve paid for several times in fuel taxes.
      There are no light rail plans in this century.

      Why not, the DOT/State has such a track record of sound cost control and planning.
      How ’bout we agree to a master plan, go for 1% T-S and leave it all to be spent in the County collected in ?

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        “In Cherokee we get one road four laned, a bridge and some promise of money to sprinkle around, all that we’ve paid for several times in fuel taxes….”
        “…..There are no light rail plans in this century.”

        Well, with the way that things are going down under the Gold Dome, I don’t know if they’re for this century, but there are actually plans for rail transit (light rail or commuter rail either on the I-575 or the little-used Georgia Northeastern Railroad freight rail right-of-ways).

        And believe-it-or-not, the plans for regional commuter on the Georgia Northeastern Railroad freight rail right-of-way is courtesy of the boys over at the traditionally totally road-focused Georgia Department of Transportation and have been under (admittedly not really all that serious) consideration by GDOT for close to a quarter-of-a-century.

        The only thing is that, as I’m I am sure you are well-aware, none of these rail transit plans appear in the T-SPLOST list:

        http://plan2040.atlantaregional.com/

        http://www.dot.state.ga.us/travelingingeorgia/rail/Documents/CommuterRailMap.pdf

        http://www.dot.state.ga.us/maps/Documents/railroad/nga_passenger.pdf

        http://www.garprail.org/documents/MACOC_Commuter_Rail_%20Plan_Update_Final.pdf

        • Engineer says:

          Your comment implies that shared rail can’t be done here. North Carolina was able to get the rail companies on board to share the rails, so why can’t Georgia?

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            Shared rail can definitely be done here in Georgia, it just that regional commuter rail service, along with sanity, competence and coherence, has not been the transportation priority that it obviously should be.

            See the links that I provided above to see that even the seemingly road-focused and road-crazy (but not road-crazy enough) Georgia Department of Transportation thinks that shared rail can be done in Georgia, even with the very-heavy freight volumes.

            Heck, shared rail is already done here in Georgia, albeit on a much-smaller scale, on the Norfolk Southern lines that parallel I-20 West and I-85, lines that also carry Amtrak Crescent trains between New York and New Orleans.

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        “How ’bout we agree to a master plan, go for 1% T-S and leave it all to be spent in the County collected in ?”

        How about the state legislature make this a referendum to raise the state’s increasingly meager fuel tax to a level to adequately fund all long-delayed road improvements while funding long-overdue transit improvements with user fees, instead?

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        “Why not, the DOT/State has such a track record of sound cost control and planning.”

        Agreed, GDOT does have a great track record of sound cost control and planning, so great that GDOT probably couldn’t find its own track record if they tried, with both hands, a mirror, a flashlight, a magnifying glass, a map showing them the exact location of the track record and a two-year head start with the track record planted firmly up their [backside]…where much of the money that GDOT handles usually ends up, ironically.

        Because GDOT probably would have lost the track record along with the $430 million in years of unpaid invoices that they lost in a desk for many years.

        Though the chances are good that GDOT would eventually accidentially find the track record like they did when they accidentially found $1 billion that they didn’t even know that they had lost….Now THAT’S an amazing track record of sound cost control and planning!

      • Engineer says:

        “The fuel tax is not an income tax or property tax either.”
        I was talking taxes in general, not just one single type that’s why I referred to multiple types.

        “How ’bout we agree to a master plan, go for 1% T-S and leave it all to be spent in the County collected in ?”
        The whole point is so it helps the REGION. The point of it is to make sure that your region isn’t bottle-necked commercially by transportation issues. For example, outside of your metro Atlanta bubble, there are many many cases of a 4 lane highway going into a poorer county and suddenly it drops to a rough 2 lane road and once you get out of that county, it suddenly goes back to 4-lane (I know of several places that this happens on US 441). It’s the bottlenecks like this that hurt commerce, especially in rural Georgia. Furthermore, if you want a single county SPLOST fund for transportation, then you and your county have all the right they want to do so.

  9. CobbGOPer says:

    Well, his corporate masters at Cox Communications are one of the corporate backers of this thing as well as the information campaign pushing it, so this doesn’t necessarily surprise me.

    Although Erick Erickson has pretty much savaged it lately on his show, and he’s been telling everyone he’ll vote no.

  10. rrrrr says:

    Vote for the TSPLOST if you believe it would be a good investment as it’s formatted.

    Just remember, it will be around/up for renewal for several decades and beyond the initial “period”. SPLOSTS are a lot like potato chips or beer, can’t have just ONE! (Just ask Gwinnett County – home of the Zombie SPLOSTs)

    It seems we need to be “educated” and some of that funding is coming from CIDs in the area.

    The DOT’s own studies indicate that it will save “the customer” (That’s us) 8 minutes in overall commute time – 8 MINUTES!. Well, it would be billable time in some professions …

    We will have NO need to find maintenance funds elsewhere; HOT Lane revenue will do it all…

    It will be audited and controlled by an “organization” whos leaders believe ethics isn’t an issue or even a requirement … only a concern of liberal, divisive fools. (I feel a tingle up my pant leg on this one)

    And let’s not forget it appears to make liberal assumptions on the availability of Federal level monies down the road… (The irony of which is not “LOST” on us here)

    Yes IMHO this will turn out well and if it doesn’t, I’m sure Mr. Howard could remote in from an alternate location. Satellites and Fiber-links are AWSOME!

    • 8 minutes a day is roughly 35 hours a year. The median household income in Atlanta is $50k roughly. Consumption wise let’s assume around $25k/year is spent. 1 cent sales tax = $250. $250 for 35 hours is a pretty damn good deal whether you bill by the hour or not.

      Now looked at from another way – let’s say your round trip commute is 40 miles, and right now you do 30 miles of it at 25 mpg moving speeds and 10 miles of it at 10mpg stop and go speed. That’s 2.2 gallons of gas. Now let’s say that 8 minutes is taking the 10 miles of stop and go and doing that at the quicker speed – so now you’re doing 1.6 miles of gas each day. If gas stays around $3.50/gallon for the foreseeable future you’re talking about $2.10/day in gas, while paying roughly an extra $1 in sales tax.

      Look I’m not saying these are rock solid examples, but if you honestly thought 8 minutes per day was the target (and for all I know that may be a bit optimistic) by these numbers you should wholeheartedly support this thing.

      Of course, per Clark Howard, the real reason to support this thing is that besides us rednecks no company in America looks at the current Atlanta traffic “plan” and says I want to be part of that.

      • seekingtounderstand says:

        The cost of everyone paying the “its just a penny” is compounded into all goods and services.

  11. John Konop says:

    No dought the plan has issues. But can we afford to do nothing and is the best plan we will see? I am reluctantly leaning for the plan, because I fear this is as good as it gets. I also agree with Salty about the lack of light rail and control issues. You can’t always get what you want, but if try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need……..Mick!

    • Well Cherokee County isn’t going to get light rail anytime soon whether they are part of a regional solution or they just raise the tax to spend it in the county. But if you truly want light rail and other transit options in Cherokee county about the only way that could happen is to hope for success in other counties that will actually do it and hope it spreads. Ultimately, if you want better alternative transit options, even if it won’t benefit your area right away, you’ve really got to get the ball rolling first where they will be accepted and hope it’s contageous.

      • saltycracker says:

        Hmmm, that’s a clever idea…. vote yes and we’ll keep our rail & buses far, far, away…..I like it !

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        Not only is Cherokee County not going to get light rail (or commuter rail) anytime soon.

        Cherokee County is likely not going to get light rail (or commuter rail) ever, with the way things are going as there seems to be some very strong anti-transit sentiment, especially from the already-strong Tea Party-affiliated groups that have been gaining even more political influence within the county as of late.

        There’s no way on God’s green earth that any politician who values his-or-her political career would dare even suggest that taxes be increased to pay for transportation upgrades, especially transit, in Cherokee County.

        And especially after watching four officials who didn’t tow the Republican Party line on charter schools get disowned by and have their party memberships revoked from the Cherokee County GOP…..

        ….What does anyone think would be the reaction of local Tea Partiers and staunch conservatives if a local politician dared to commit the unforgivable heretical act of uttering even the mere suggestion of raising taxes to fund transportation upgrades that are seemingly not-all-popular throughout the conservative outer-suburban/exurban county, especially a DIRECT TRANSIT CONNECTION TO ATLANTA where tens-of-thousands of Cherokee County residents commute to and from every workday? (Oh, the HORROR!!!!!)

        You can probably mark down the idea of tax increases for rail transit in Cherokee as being one that will occur when hell freezes over at this point.

        • sunkawakan says:

          @LDIG

          “Oh, the HORROR!!!!!”

          That’s Cherokee county, for certain. The political mafia capitol of North Georgia.

        • saltycracker says:

          LDG,

          There is a direct transit connection from Canton/Woodstock to downtown now. And it is cheap. Looking around ITP, Metro folks just love to ride alone in their cars.

          The numbers crunched appear to indicate that Cherokee will get most of its tax paid back in DOT & local road improvements. Debating the virtues of MARTA is probably something the TP can get their teeth into and maybe off point.

          For most, I suspect the real problem is a lack of trust, based on history with DOT, not addressing years of complaints, politicals playing low gas tax games & such stuff. Trust is difficult to quantify in a debate and is the hidden agenda, so we stick to other excuses.

          Will Cherokee citizens get what is promised in TSPLOST in a timely manner and sans surprises ? What other road returns are there for ongoing taxes ? Trust ARC, DOT & the state ? Like a Hollywood marriage……

    • Baker says:

      Konop: “I am reluctantly leaning for the plan, because I fear this is as good as it gets.”

      Bingo. If we vote no and send them back to the drawing board, as many are suggesting, it will be 2014 at least, more likely 2015, before we get another vote, and then probably 2017 before anything actually happens. And that is being unbelievably optimistic on a “Plan B” schedule. Are voters not aware of how many public officials’ hands this went through before approval? Some transit fanatic didn’t just sit down and draw this up one night. This was months and months, years, of planning and meetings.

      • Rambler1414 says:

        If the bill that the Georgia Legislature passed gave us the very elected officials that were responsible in putting together this project list,

        How is the 2-4 years from now going to be any different?

        Meanwhile, Atlanta slides towards Birmingham status while Charlotte and Orlando take several steps forward in attracting future leaders.

      • John Konop says:

        You make very good points as usual. Metro Atlanta is competing on regional basis and it seems many do not get it. And if we keep sliding looking for the perfect plan all of us we feel the pain. Time is not on our side as you pointed out.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      That’s because there is no positive cost/benefit to demonstrate.

      They’re just basically begging for the first of what will be many public handouts to fund their expensive, and wastly, boondoogles.

      They have pretty much openly admitted that the $6-7 billion that they hope that this t-spLOST will generate is just the tip of the iceberg (a Titanic reference is very appriopriate in this case), to the tune of nearly $50-60 billion, in terms of what they hope to extort, hustle and trick the taxpayers into giving them to flush down the collective toilet into their already-deep pockets.

    • Rambler1414 says:

      In spending approximately $8 billion for more than 150 projects, the region receives more than $34 billion (current $) back in Gross Regional Product by 2040. (Gross Regional Product is the Gross Domestic Product for the Atlanta region.)

    • Rambler1414 says:

      Because of the congestion relief the transportation investments will bring, the region will save an estimated $9.2 billion (current $) through 2040.

    • Rambler1414 says:

      Due to increased travel time savings and reduced fuel costs, regional residents will save more than $18 billion (current $) by 2040.

        • Rambler1414 says:

          A better way to describe it:

          • $9.2 billion in travel time savings – The average metro Atlanta commuter spends $924 each year sitting in traffic. Collectively, these projects would allow residents to save $9.2 billion* by 2040.
          • $18 billion increase in personal income – Due to the travel time savings and reduced fuel costs, incomes around the region will increase a collective $18 billion by 2040.

          http://www.atlantaregionalroundtable.com/documents/economic_impacts_regional_transp_referendum.pdf

          • Charlie says:

            The “average” metro commuter doesn’t spend $924 sitting in traffic. That’s the opportunity cost if they are able to convert that to income.

            The T-SPLOST won’t help the “average” commuter”. The traffic studies note that the time increase will improve for commuters on the routes that are improved.

            To then say that each of these average commuters will all convert this mythical time saved to income and not leisure to generate $18 Billion is laughable.

            Now excuse me, I need to go look at all the high end residential and commercial development surrounding Gwinnett Braves Stadium that similar studies promised.

            • John Konop says:

              Charlie,

              In all due respect do you think doing nothing is a smart option? And if this fails it would be nothing for years……………..

              • Charlie says:

                I refusee to accept a crap sandwich because the alternative offered is that I might miss a meal.

                I haven’t made my decision how I’m going to vote, but numbers that are the construct of expert studies commissioned to support this are not going to sway me in favor.

                • John Konop says:

                  We both know that the plug and play use of numbers in politics would be laughed out of any research methods class. I am assuming that the direct ROI on this for the community would not make it in the private sector. But with that said, one cannot argue we are falling behind our competition, which will hurt growth. If this does not pass, what will be the alternative in your opinion knowing the politics?

                • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                  “I refusee to accept a crap sandwich because the alternative offered is that I might miss a meal.”

                  My sentiments exactly as the choice seems to be “eat this crap now or get nothing else again, ever”.

            • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

              “Now excuse me, I need to go look at all the high end residential and commercial development surrounding Gwinnett Braves Stadium that similar studies promised.”

              Haven’t you heard? The development surrounding Gwinnett Braves Stadium is part of the latest trend in real estate…

              It’s called “invisible development”, which is what I think the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners had in mind when they pushed this project to lure a Triple-A Minor League baseball team to play only 35 miles from the Major League Atlanta Braves, a market in which heavily-populated Gwinnett is already a key part of (can you say “unnecessary duplication”?).

  12. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “Clark Howard Endorses T-SPLOST”

    …All the more reason to vote against it!

  13. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “Y’all make of it what you will. I remain undecided, slightly leaning against.”

    I’ve actually moved out of the “slightly against” category, rolling completely through the “decisively against” category, without stopping, and straight into the “I’ll-give-my-vote (and my money)-to-these-incompetent-greedy-bloodsucking-crooks-pushing-this-crap-when-Hell-freezes-over” category.

    I would tell everyone how I REALLY feel about this crooked scam and this complete farce that the powers-that-be are parading around not-so-cleverly disguised as a T-SPLOST…

    …But seeing as though I’ve been repeatedly told by numerous people both online and offline over the past couple of weeks that I’ve been a tad bit grouchy (grouchier than usual, according to most), and because I greatly value and appreciate being apart of the online community here at Peach Pundit and would like to help keep it a family atmosphere, I’m going to wisely refrain telling everyone how I REALLY feel about this T-SPLOST (t-sp-LOST) and instead am going to opt to spread my own special unique brand of sunshine both around the blogosphere and in the real world.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Because it’s going to be a bright, BRIGHT, bright (BRIGHT!) sunshiny day!

      Yes, folks…Could this possibly be the start of a kinder, gentler LDiG?

      Could be…Doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be…But it at least could be…

  14. seekingtounderstand says:

    Ok the pro TSPLost folks want us to trust billions of dollars to the good old boy network and the folks who gave us toll lanes with a hugh growth in the government department headed by Gena Evans department of TOLL COLLECTORS. Notice how their budget has taken off lately?
    I will vote yes if you take a map of Georgia and pinpoint every road project where an elected offical or ex offical or DOT board member has made money off of real estate development deals.
    Remember they are all under different company names so it will take some work. Then send a copy to every taxpayer in the state. We have made many a millionaire under the guise of service to our country.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      There’s not enough trees on Earth to supply the amount of paper that would be needed to pull that off.

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