While much of the debate here is growing circular, this is the hot topic of the day. As such, here’s a daily Pro & Con T-SPLOST open thread.
On the Pro-Side, we have a new TV ad from UNTIE Atlanta.
For the opposition, I present the following e-mail by Representative Ed Setzler.
I have been getting a lot of serious questions about the upcoming July 31 transportation referendum (TSPLOST). As many of you know, I serve on the House Transportation Committee and have worked diligently for years to help the Atlanta region find real solutions to its traffic problems. It is with this commitment to actually solve our traffic problems while not wasting taxpayer money that I STRONGLY OPPOSE PASSAGE OF THE TSPLOST REFERENDUM ON JULY 31.
The $8.4 billion TSPLOST project list selected in 2011 by a group of 21 local officials is such a profoundly poor use of a 10 year sales tax that if we consume the $3,500 each metro household will pay for these projects, metro Atlanta will never catch up in finding the money required to address traffic congestion. The fatal irony of the TSPLOST vote is that what is being sold to you as traffic relief is largely a bail out for MARTA and a funding mechanism for billion dollar mass transit projects that only 2% of us will ever use. Please don’t be fooled by this very slick and well done advertising campaign. The powerful interests funding this unprecedented effort have so much to gain from TSPLOST’s passage that they will stop at almost nothing to gain your support.
Think about it – spending $8 Million in advertising to secure $8 Billion in targeted construction.that means that it will cost TSPLOST proponents only $1 of private advertising for every $1000 in tax payer funded projects they will receive if the referendum passes on July 31. Imagine an 8 year old child that invests $5 in advertising for a Saturday lemonade stand and from that tiny investment receives $5,000 in business. Dollar for dollar, that is the same 1000 to 1 pot of gold that proponents of the TSPLOST know is on the back side of this rainbow, if they can only convince you that the July 31 project list is worthy of your support.
This project list is a trap for taxpayers that consumes 52% of the money on rail transit projects, many of which are initial phases multi-decade projects that will require your support again and again every 10 years and will do practically nothing to reduce traffic. Even the AJC reported on May 20, 2012, that regional planners concede that the TSPLOST project list will do little to reduce commute times. Hijacked by powerful in-town interests, the TSPLOST ignores recent compelling studies that propose intersection improvements and even express bus projects that provide a reasonable return on our investment. Instead, the TSPLOST funds $120 million per mile pet projects such BRT/Light Rail to Cumberland Mall and the Atlanta Beltline, a project of great political interest to in-town leaders that will do absolutely nothing to reduce traffic. Furthermore, the TSPLOST brazenly commits $600 million to bail out the existing MARTA system, a concept that the legislature intentionally tried to prohibit in passing the enabling act.
Predictably, there is no real funding to get the counter-TSPLOST message out because this is a classic case of concentrated benefits, dispersed costs. There really is no one big entity that stands much to gain from opposing TSPLOST, just voters who have become ever accustomed to the call that “it’s just one penny, you’ll never miss it.”
In conclusion, I could under different circumstances support a sales tax vote if the project list provided good value in actual traffic relief. A laser-focus on traffic relief was the solemn commitment of those who proposed this regional sales tax referendum to the legislature. Unfortunately, these dollars were repurposed by powerful in-town interests to become what is in essence an $8 Billion bait-and-switch that only the voters of the 10-county metro region can stop between now and July 31. Do not believe this is the only chance we have – we CAN come back in two years and get this list right. Cries of “There is no Plan B!” or “Now is your only chance to buy!” are the tactics of high pressure salesman that benefit greatly from your uncertainty. Two years is not too long to wait to address a traffic problem that has been 50 years in the making. Let’s come back in 2 years with a project list that is worthy of our support.
I urge you to educate yourself, share this message with all of your friends, and vote NO on July 31.
If you would like to investigate these issues further, I encourage you to contact me personally or check out a short but substantive informational video on the web, presented by a retired Army logistics officer Mr. Bob Ross of Fayette County. The link is as follows:
Thank you for your consideration and I am deeply honored to serve you in Georgia legislature.
Georgia House of Representatives
I like and respect Rep. Setzler. I’m leaning against voting for T-SPLOST. But I’ll go ahead and editorialize that I am growing weary of hearing that one of TSPLOST’s many problems is that it is a “bailout” of MARTA. Fulton & DeKalb residents will be doubling their taxes paid to transit. What they get in return is temporary restrictions lifted on their capital budget, while new suburbanites will help govern a system they pay little for. The state will continue to pretend MARTA isn’t the largest transit system in the country that receives no state funds.
Frankly, the inequitable solution for MARTA is one of the worst parts of T-SPLOST, and the inequity isn’t on the side of the suburbanites who are railing against the authority. The misinformation about MARTA and the continued use of it as a political boogeyman is perhaps one of the most dangerous threats to any real attempt to solve the Atlanta Region’s traffic problems.
Also, I’ve decided to close the thread with Senator Chambliss’s statement on T-SPLOST as we just have too many of these open. If you have an opinion on the Senator’s statement, please include it here.