T-SPLOST: A Democrat’s Dilemma

It would be an understatement to say that we Democrats haven’t been able to win a partisan election in this state for quite some time.  And although I love this great state, it would be dishonest to pretend that I don’t think my party’s philosophy and plans for it are better than the alternative – and that I root for my side to win and am disappointed when we lose even when the Republican is a good man.  When I ran for the legislature, there was certainly a desire to wield some personal power – I’d be lying if I said otherwise and so would anyone else who runs for office – but there’s also a loyalty to party and ideology and a willingness to sacrifice one’s self (win or lose) to advance that.

Next Tuesday, I’ll walk into a voting booth and decide whether to support a highly flawed T-SPLOST that nevertheless threatens to doom my beloved state’s future if it doesn’t pass.  Make no mistake – for the time being and for the foreseeable past and future, this is a Republican state.  The T-SPLOST is a Republican plan (part of the reason it’s so flawed, I will get to that) and the Republicans who want to yield none of their power to Democrats at the state level (unless they meaninglessly switch to their party) are counting on me and my friends to do their dirty work so that the state can succeed and they can take the credit.

And why should we help these Republicans?  They – and their national counterparts certainly don’t deserve our help.  At every step of the T-SPLOST process, they’ve chosen the path of least resistance – from yielding important STATE decision making powers to local officials and then crapping on those same officials when the base made any noise (see for example Chip Rogers who voted for T-SPLOST but now says he doesn’t support it when the local decision making process that he voted for allegedly didn’t produce a result his fanatical base can be happy with) to the obvious pander of taking down the GA-400 tolls to try to appease a group of voters who will never vote for the T-SPLOST in one million years but is an important constituency in the next Republican primary (I see Penn State is also taking down the Joe Pa statue – a similar gesture).

Just compare the Ga-400 gesture to the South DeKalb black Democrats who have paid a penny for MARTA for 30 years without rail and are now being asked to pay a penny more to still get no rail.  I guess it’s wrong to make people that drive on 400 pay for something they use but it is ok to make other people pay for something they can’t.

Back to the Republicans.  In Georgia and nationally they will champion an idea for years – see for example the individual mandate, HOT lanes or teacher tenure – only to run with their tail between their legs like cowards when they sense that a flip-flop can gain them more votes than standing with their convictions and persuading their coalition to go along.  As a Democrat and an honest observer of state politics, I know that Republicans have accomplished nothing meaningful since their takeover of this state, and only this state’s powerful embrace of the status quo (we Democrats trained the voters well in this regard) and fear of the modern Democratic coalition (ditto) keeps them in power.

There would be nothing better for my party than absolute failure for the Republicans.  I severely want people to walk into the voting booth in 2014 looking at someone like Kasim Reed or Jason Carter as the Democratic nominee for Governor and think to themselves “it can’t get much worse.”

And yet – unlike Republicans like Chip Rogers and Nathan Deal, who care more for their own political (and personal) fortunes than the future of this state, I love my state more than my party.  So I’ll be voting Yes on a highly flawed plan that is almost certain to lose.  And until Tuesday the 31st, I’ll be openly rooting for this highly flawed plan to pass, because ultimately that is the right thing to do, even though the architects of the plan from the planning stages to the campaign have taken the wrong path at every given chance.  It is a plan that at times makes no sense to us Democrats and is nonetheless vital for our future.

And starting August 1st, when the T-SPLOST will almost certainly lose barring a miracle, I and other Democrats will end our short-lived coalition of necessity with the state’s Republican leaders and start plotting a return to power that their failure to lead made possible.  And when the Democrat who has a real chance of breaking the hold of power that the Republicans currently hold in this state finally wins office – whether it’s 2014 or 2018 or 2028, I hope the lesson they learn from this failed T-SPLOST process is that when you’re entrusted with the great power to govern this state the most important question you can ask yourself is not what can I do to ensure I hold onto power no matter what – it’s what can I do to move this great state forward even if it means it will be moving forward without me.

The Republican emperors of Georgia have no clothes – but I’ll still be voting yes because it’s the right thing to do and because I’m confident that eventually they’ll expose themselves without my help.  Democratic hands will be clean and ready to rebuild this state when the voters grant us that opportunity.  And when we’re finally in power and willing to make the tough decisions, I hope the Republicans of the future will join with us, as I’m joining with their party on July 31 – but I know better.  They’ll be blaming the Democrats for cleaning up their mess, maligning the Republican ideas that Democrats adopt in the spirit of compromise, and plotting their return to power so that they can continue to enrich themselves and their allies to the detriment of the people of this state.  Sad but true.


  1. Joshua Morris says:

    “…a highly flawed T-SPLOST that nevertheless threatens to doom my beloved state’s future if it doesn’t pass.” Seriously? How in the world could the rejection of this unproductive plan ‘doom’ the future? What it will do is put the responsibility for transportation planning and for cleaning up the GDOT back into the hands of the state legislature where it should be. GDOT needs to operate from a single managed revenue stream, and our elected officials should be accountable for that.

    • Baker says:

      “into the hands of the state legislature where it should be” -except they won’t do anything about it

      “and our elected officials should be accountable for that” -they won’t be, please refer to Charlie’s link on the Dale Russell story

      That’s why I’m voting yes.

      Pot-stirred? It’s not a TSPLOST post unless there are near 100 comments.

      • Joshua Morris says:

        So since the legislature won’t be responsible, you think we should give the GDOT an extra slush fund to mismanage? Not sure I follow that line of reasoning.

          • you says:

            “the money can only be spent on those projects. ”

            Sure….the government never changes its mind.
            For those of you who believe it is temporary, here in Hall county we are on “temorary” SPLOST #6.

            • seekingtounderstand says:

              Hall County may well be on its way to another splost to pay off bond debt brought by leaders that over spent thru splost projects we can not afford to operate.

        • GTKay says:

          The money actually goes to GSFIC and GDOT and GRTA are reimbursed.

          Section 6
          • The Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission
          (GSFIC)will serve as the trustee for each district’s funds.
          • GDOT will manage the budget, schedule, execution, and
          delivery of all projects in the state, except bus and rail mass
          transit systems and passenger rail in the Metro Atlanta Region,
          which will be managed by GRTA.
          • Upon completion of a project or as funds are needed for
          project “elements”, GDOT (or GRTA) will invoice GSFIC, which
          shall make payments “promptly”.
          • GDOT, GRTA, and GSFIC will consult quarterly on the schedule
          and delivery of projects on the approved investment list.

          Sorry for the cut and paste, this is from the following document:


  2. Calypso says:

    Chris, your post brings to mind that old saw about the dog chasing cars. Once he finally caught up with one, he bit its bumper and then wondered, “Now what?”

    That’s the way I see the current crop of Repub legislators and their so-called ‘leadership’ (particularly the ‘leadership’. They chased for 100+ years what they now have clenched so tightly in their teeth, and don’t have the slightest clue what to do with it. The only thing they know for sure is they don’t to let it go.

  3. jiminga says:

    Huttman believes voting for a bad idea that will remain bad for 10 years is better than working harder and smarter for a good one? I live in Fayette and we’ll get an unnecessary road widening and another road to nowhere, while paying for phoney “improvements” for north siders. I vote NO.

    • Well you’re a Republican so obviously you believe that your leaders can do better. Here in the reality world I see cowardice and self-enrichment as their core principles, and really do believe this is the best we’ll get for some time – barring a Democratic takeover. Of course, we Democrats share some of the blame for letting places like Fayette “opt out” of a regional solution over the years – instead of using our power to cram down a state and regional solution. But at some point it’s got to end and we have to insist on one. I don’t expect voters like yourself to join in that coalition, but it will eventually be here.

      • you says:

        “Our” republicans are “your” democrats and you will get them all back as soon as the Democratic takeover happens. Politicians around here are funny like that, they switch parties whenever needed to stay in power. 🙂
        If we had some true conservative leaders in this state, TSPLOST would not be the plan.

        • It’s been ten years and you’re still taking them in – just look at Doug McKillip.

          The truth is – guys like Bob Hanner and Mickey Channell won’t be part of whatever Democratic coalition finally emerges to retake power. The other truth is whatever moderating influence guys like the above, Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal bring to the table probably helps keep the GOP in power in a state where the Democrats pretty much always get at least 45% of the two-party vote. Without them I’d be doubtful that the “true conservative” approach could get a majority here.

      • CobbGOPer says:

        I would venture that ‘cowardice’ and ‘self-enrichment’ are also core principles of the Democrat party, despite what Kasim Reed may say.

  4. wicker says:


    You aren’t making a huge stand for principle and statesmanship by A) voting for a transportation plan that – while flawed – you still fundamentally agree with and B) that you know has no chance of passing.

    Second, you can bash the GOP leadership of this state all you want. (I certainly do.) But A) the GOP has only run this state for 10 years, which means that transportation and all the other messes in this state should be laid primarily at the feet of the Democratic Party that ruled this state for 100 years and B) this state switched from the Democratic Party to a group of mostly moderate establishment Republicans (many of whom are former Democrats like Perdue and Deal … sorry, no “movement conservatives” like Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, Rand Paul and what Bob Barr used to be in a position of real power in Georgia state government) for a reason, and no, it didn’t have anything to do with “civil rights laws causing Democrats to lose the south for a generation” … laws passed on the national level in the 1960s did not cause the Democrats to lose the state in 2002, especially when pro-civil rights, indeed pro-affirmative action Democrats from Carter to Harris to Miller to Barnes had no problem getting elected.

    So yes, the GOP has failed to lead on this issue, but so did the Democrats fail for decades prior. And if you want to talk about selling out black MARTA voters … didn’t Roy Barnes do that when he pushed express bus service to the metro counties for free, the same service that south DeKalb voters get for a penny? There was a lot of anger from Fulton and DeKalb voters over that. Barnes also was a huge “building roads to nowhere” guy on transportation, and he was also a “create another layer of bureaucracy to deal with it” guy, which is how we got GRTA.

    Instead of being “flawed because it was written by Republicans”, the Republican input was the only reason why it ever had a ghost of a chance of passing. Had the list been slightly less flawed OR had we not been operating in a Tea Party environment OR had the president been a GOPer instead of a Democrat OR had Mary Norwood won the Atlanta mayor’s race instead of Kasim Reed OR had the NAACP and other groups not made the decision to try to deny the governor a major policy/political victory (to go with the HOPE and ports issue … had this gone through Deal would have accomplished more in 2 years than most Georgia governors do in 8) it would have had a real chance at passage. Meanwhile, a Democratic list would have had no chance at passing.

    You can go ahead and bash the current GOP economic message that causes so many voters to believe that they can get all the services that they want without cutting taxes, or that they should not pay for taxes for services that they (plan to) use. Yes, that is nothing but a welfare/entitlement/freeloader (and because of the healthcare debate you can call it “free rider” too) mentality that is as destructive to the nation as the Great Society ever was. But the fact is that it is largely – though not completely – irrelevant in Georgia. This transportation thing is a mess primarily because the Democrats were so bad on this issue for so long, and in many cases are still bad on the issue. For example: the refusal of DeKalb-Fulton “leaders” to recognize that being double-taxed for 10 years is a sacrifice well worth getting MARTA into Cobb and Gwinnett permanently, including failing to realize that getting Cobb and Gwinnett into MARTA – making MARTA no longer a “black/Atlanta” issue – would greatly increase the chance of it FINALLY getting state support. By Vincent Fort and the NAACP coming out against this thing because they don’t want Nathan Deal to be able to campaign in it 4 years from now, they’re harming their own city and constituency. And that is just the black Atlanta Democrat leadership (and the voters who follow them). You have the white Atlanta Democrats who for decades have only wanted rail and have been adamantly against highways, and the white non-Atlanta Democrats who hate Atlanta as much as the suburban Republicans do.

    Yes, the GOP has dropped the ball, but the Democrats did too, and have done so for far longer. And your failure to admit that is what makes this screed so self-serving and hollow (that and the fact that you know that it isn’t going to pass … if it actually had a chance of passing, you’d be much more circumspect about voting to aid the Nathan Deal re-election campaign).

      • Baker says:

        I don’t mean to give short shrift to your post by only mentioning that one paragraph, the whole thing was good, but for me the shortsightedness of Mssr. Fort is inexplicable and the Balkanization of the Metro Atl is sickening.

    • Baker says:

      Your 2nd to last paragraph is dead on, and you’re right about the pre-Sonny Dems dropping the ball on this for so long, but this is where we are now. And unless we pass this thing next week, this is where we will continue to be for at least another decade.

      • I’ll admit if we want to fire up the bong and have a nice college debate about how we got here there are some good points in the above. But this isn’t college. This is running a state that’s the size of a multi-national corporation. Time to move from the theoretical to the responsible.

    • Part of being ready to lead means just that – at what point does the statute of limitations expire? Surely after 8 years of George Bush’s national policies and only 4 for Barack Obama you are extending the same courtesy to him that you want me to extend to the state’s Republicans?

      The whole point of GRTA was to eventually absorb MARTA into a statewide transportation network that could be rebranded and resold to the suburbs. But let’s get to your main point that a Democratic list would have had no chance of passing. Surely this has more to do with the extremely flawed way this election is being held than with the political reality in these counties. These ten counties gave almost 60% of their cumulative vote to Barack Obama, and even in 2010 Roy Barnes carried them 55% – 41% for Nathan Deal. If the state had held the election in November, given real power to local Democrats and let them turn it into a partisan vote, I am confident we could have passed it.

      I’m sorry – but you are living in the same fantasy land that led to the creation of this monstrosity if you don’t think Democrats could carry the day in these ten counties if we’d have been given proper authority to construct and run this thing. Have some of the actors that you mentioned acted in less than a sterling way (from your point of view at least)? Sure. But can you really blame them.

      When Tim Lee put his career on the line to advance the cause in Cobb and has now had to backtrack to try to continue serving in office – where has friend of the Chamber Mr. Moderate Sam Olens been to defend him and this plan? Where has Nathan Deal been to explain that he’s really doing the right thing. Where has Tom Price or Phil Gingrey been? Hiding. Feel free to blame me if it makes you feel better, but I and voters will eventually know better.

      • wicker says:

        For the record, I give George W. Bush plenty of blame for the economy. So do most people nationally. It is the only reason why Obama still has a good shot at winning re-election … people see Romney as “another Bush.”

        “I’m sorry – but you are living in the same fantasy land that led to the creation of this monstrosity if you don’t think Democrats could carry the day in these ten counties if we’d have been given proper authority to construct and run this thing”

        Democrats had the proper authority to construct and run it. That’s the whole point. The voters of this 10 county region – and the whole state – still remember when this state was dominated top to bottom with Democrats. Democrats could have added another highway (or two) and done more things with MARTA back when the land was cheaper, there was less sprawl and congestion, and the economy was still booming. And now you want to bash the GOP for failing to put forth the same plan that you guys failed to produce because you feared that proposing it might have cost you an election. You guys didn’t put forth a real plan (for transportation, education, energy or ethics) because you didn’t want to lose the governor’s office, which you wound up losing anyway. That is no different from how the national GOP blames Obama for failing to make the spending cuts that they have been avoiding like the plague since 1994. (Note that there were no attempts to pass contracts with America or Ryan plans when Bush was in office, and you won’t real deficit reduction packages if Romney gets elected either.)

        “The whole point of GRTA was to eventually absorb MARTA into a statewide transportation network that could be rebranded and resold to the suburbs.”

        That had absolutely no chance to work. Barnes and the Georgia legislature should have just increased the gas tax and used it to build 2 highways and more rail. They didn’t because they didn’t want the tax increase to be used to vote them out of office, which is the same reason why Miller, Harris and his predecessors didn’t. So even if they are running and hiding now, Deal and company showed more political courage on this issue in 2 years than Miller, Harris and Barnes did in 20, only to have the NAACP, the CBC, the Sierra Club etc. stab them in the back when they know good and well that the increased rail will A) be good for the environment and B) help ITP blacks get to the suburban employment/educational/recreational opportunities, and even the increased highway building will be a Keynesian boost to the economy … they are talking about the lack of contracts that will go to black businesses (when there is NO EVIDENCE that this will actually happen by the way) and totally ignoring all the black construction workers that would benefit. The same people who supported Obama’s “shovel ready stimulus projects” as creating jobs for blacks are turning around and claiming that this project will hurt blacks. And the same people who supported Obama’s waiving environmental regulations for his stimulus projects are claiming that a transportation list that is 52% rail will harm the environment.

        Oh yes, and Obama and Barnes winning this 10-county region is quite different from asking people to tax themselves, especially when they will have little direct recourse against the people who will manage how the taxes will be spent. There will be no mayors or county commissioners to vote against in 2-4 years, for example. There is a difference between voting for a politician or party and voting for an issue. Even Georgia Democrats have long been very reticent to tax themselves, especially when A) the revenues will be spent somewhere else and B) when they can’t vote out the people with control over the funds.

        Sorry, you guys helped create this problem, and should be equally accountable for coming up with a fix for it, and that fix shouldn’t be “let us do it.”

        • Two things. I’m 32 years old. I was 10 when Zell Miller first got elected Governor and 18 when Roy Barnes won. The modern Democratic party in Georgia has almost nothing to do with the one that laid this groundwork – in fact go read Jim Galloway’s interview with Zell – that Democratic party is now the Republican party.

          My post is about a way forward – and the other thing is what courage has Nathan Deal shown? Sonny Perdue was still governor when the ball got rolling on this thing, and he cursed it from the start by having the election on the primary ballot instead of the general election ballot. The one act that Nathan Deal could have done to be truly courageous was to stand up to the tea party and members of his own party in the legislature and move this vote to the General election.

          He didn’t – so don’t lecture me about how courageous he’s been.

          • wicker says:

            You can read Jim Galloway’s article from Sunday on Zell. You can also read Cynthia Tucker and Jay Bookman articles from about a decade ago about how the Zell Miller that served in the U.S. Senate was not the same guy who was lieutenant governor and governor for 24 years; the guy who practically got Bill Clinton elected by moving up the state primary. Miller admits so himself, and claims that September 11th and a religious conversion pushed him to the right. Zell Miller was elected to statewide office all those years as a pro-affirmative action, pro-abortion, pro-feminist governor. Miller was actually to the left of Barnes and basically indistinguishable from Reed for most of his career, and Andrew Young tried to beat Miller in the governor’s race by running to his right. So yes, you’re only 32, but your problem is that you are believing the fairy tales that your elders in the DPOG are telling you instead of the truth. The Democrats lost this state because they moved left on one hand and failed to amass a record of accomplishment on the other.

            And let’s go back to the GRTA thing. The DPOG should have just said “forget Cobb and Gwinnett; they’re not going to vote for us anyway, so we’re going to expand MARTA into those areas and provide state funding for MARTA no matter what they think.” And they should have said “forget the environmentalists and the Atlanta lobby … we are going to build highways in the suburbs because we need them and the people out there that we were elected to represent – whether they actually voted for us or not – want them. And we are going to pay with BOTH with gas taxes, tolls, and increasing the MARTA fares.”

            They didn’t. Why? Because they were pandering to A) the ITP types that were going to vote for them anyway and B) the OTP types that were never going to vote for them, or at least not do so consistently. Not only is that bad leadership, it is bad political strategy. It is better to anger some people and have a real record to run on as a result than it is to try to coddle people, not win a single vote, and not accomplish anything.

            • Again – history lessons only matter so much at this point. Look out how Kasim Reed is putting himself out there – that’s real courage and he doesn’t even have any real power in this state. Nathan Deal’s people should spend less time lecturing me and more time studying him.

          • seekingtounderstand says:

            Gov. Deal can come out very well if TSPLOST is voted down.
            Simply suspend the law requiring congressional balancing of funds because the higher populated areas, Atlanta and Savannah are in dire need of transportation improvements. Our states future depends on it.
            After the people vote TSPLOST down, he can easily get in a gas tax increase and the little people or unwashed will except it for the good of GA.
            Its the Mayor who has the most to lose on this election. If TSPLOST is voted down he looks like he is not a leader who can get things done. If it passes in Atlanta, people will always wonder about electronic voting and whether or not its trust worthy since there is no way to prove votes. That goes for all elections from now on and both sides will face the question of is electronic voting machines safe. Just wait for the presidential election and this issue comes up.

      • USA1 says:

        Have I somehow missed Chris’ list of specific road and transit projects that he thinks would have ensured passage of the T-SPLOST? I see him repeatedly state that Democrats could have done everything better but I don’t see any details or proof to back that up.

        And so long as Chris trots out incorrect numbers from past election results, I will continue to correct him. Chris loves to say how Obama won almost 60% of the ten-county area in 2008. Funny how he is always vague about that total yet so specific about other amounts. That is because Obama won only 57% of the 10-county area in 2008. Chris’ assertion about Barnes’ margin in 2010 is also wrong as Barnes only managed 52% in 2010, not 55%.

        It’s also interesting to note how Chris likes to use Barnes’ 2010 total as reflective of strong partisan leanings in metro Atlanta, when Chris actually disagreed with me because I said Barnes pulled in more independent and conservative voters than other Republican candidates (which was true by the way).

        One recent contest Chris doesn’t mention is the one for 2010 US Senate. Isakson actually won the 10-county area 50% to 48% over Thurmond.

        • My bad – Barnes actual margin was 52% to 44% – most political observers will tell you that 8% is a landslide in a political race like this. And as a share of the two-party vote, he received 54% – so my comment is still technically accurate just off by 1%. Isakson and Thurmond is a poor race to use – that was a blowout by any definition and yet you kind of prove my point – hometown metro Atlanta favorite Isakson carried it by only 2 points.

          You think Barnes pulled in a lot of independents and conservatives? News to Barnes. Let’s look at the School Superintendent race – the Democrat and Republican were essentially unknowns who did no serious advertising. The Democrat got 50% (to Barnes 51.5%) and the Republican got 44.5% (to Deal’s 44%). So virtually no change there. And what about the Attorney General’s race featuring local “favorite” Sam Olens – again Democrats got 51% and the Republicans got up to 46% here, but still a 5 point win is a large margin.

          And I don’t know how much quibbling you like to do, but 57% of 99% of the two-way vote equals 58% – if that’s not “almost 60%” then I don’t know what would qualify.

          • USA1 says:

            Your comment about Barnes’ vote total was not technically accurate because you did not clearly define how you were choosing to arrive at the final vote percentages. Instead you chose to select final vote percentages that bolster your argument and then hide your methods from the readers.

            Of course Isakson’s victory is a poor race to use — for you. It proves that Republicans can still win in the 10-county area.

            I never said Barnes pulled in “a lot” of independents and conservatives, just that he pulled in more than other Democrats on the ballot. You have done this before in playing word games in which you claim I stated something which I did not. It is clear that Barnes attracted more support from independents and conservatives, heck even those here at PP admit it and voted for him.

            Quit your number games Chris. Stick with the actual perecentage totals instead of trying to weasel in an extra point here and there to inflate your argument. Those votes you casually write off to arrive at your two-party totals are usually going to the Libertarian candidates. I’m sure you don’t want to consider them in your liberal vote perecentages since they would likely vote against your utopian traffic designs, but fact is fact.

            All our disagreements about vote totals come back to how partisan leanings play into votes for T-SPLOST. At first you said the tax would pass, now you say it was bad from the start and will fail, and had local Democrats been in charge of everything the tax could have passed. Yet I have seen no proposals from you on how this would have been achieved. T-SPLOST supporters favorite comeback to opponents is “What is your Plan B?” Well, I ask you Chris, “What is the great Plan D(emocrat)?”

            • Self_Made says:

              The Dems would have screwed this up as well. The fact is that once the goal of the game became trying to please everybody, it opened up too many possibilities for somebody feeling screwed…

              They gave too much to Kasim Reed for Atlanta’s support, they threw too much at Cobb for things developers wanted but people didn’t, they got CEO Ellis to sell out South DeKalb because they thought those Black Democrats were going to support it anyway, and figured that a pro-business stance would reel in the conservatives in the ex-urbs.

              Democrats would have come up with some equally ridiculous comedy of errors in trying to make this work.

              • analogkid says:

                Not to put words in Chris’s mouth, but I think his point was that Dems wouldn’t have put this up as a referendum in the first place. They would have found funding (i.e., raised the gas tax and/or income tax) and selected the project list themselves, obviating the need to please disparate constituencies.

                • Calypso says:

                  If that is Chris’ point, then I missed it. And if that is Chris’ point, I tend to agree with it.

                  • analogkid says:

                    You and me both. Also, FYI, this is what led me to the above conclusion (I’m sure Chris will correct me if I’m wrong):

                    At every step of the T-SPLOST process, they’ve chosen the path of least resistance – from yielding important STATE decision making powers to local officials and then crapping on those same officials when the base made any noise…

                • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                  One could say that the statement that the Democrats wouldn’t have put this up as a referendum has somewhat of a ring of truth to it as look at what happened when Roy Barnes tried to push forward with the Northern Arc in the face of widespread unpopularity after he had already created GRTA and set in motion the concept of regional commuter bus service.

                • USA1 says:

                  That was NOT the point Chris was trying to make. Oh sure, he’ll come up with different ways that Democrats could have saved the day and been the superheroes he thinks they are, but in this debate Chris has made it clear that Democrats — if given complete control of the project list and campaign — could have gotten the T-SPLOST to pass in the 10-county area. Don’t believe me? Read Chris’ own words in this thread:

                  [quote]If the state had held the election in November, given real power to local Democrats and let them turn it into a partisan vote, I am confident we could have passed it.[/quote]


                  [quote]I’m sorry – but you are living in the same fantasy land that led to the creation of this monstrosity if you don’t think Democrats could carry the day in these ten counties if we’d have been given proper authority to construct and run this thing.[/quote]

                  If you — analogkid — missed those statements then you didn’t understand why Chris and I argue about partisan leanings in metro Atlanta.

                  • Well I’ll still take my chances on the 57% Obama vote in November, for the record. But per some of the other comments above having the referendum in this manner is no way to do it to begin with.

                    • USA1 says:

                      Of course you’d take your chance with a November vote because it’s all you have to hold on to. And for the record, and unlike you, I don’t think “Georgia Looks Swingy.” Nor do I think Obama will get 57% (a.k.a. almost 60%) again. Black turnout will be down. Young turnout will be down.

                      OK, you disagree with having the referendum “in this manner.” No surprise. You still posit no clear workable alternative that does not include ‘if magically Democrats were back in power’. I want to hear your ideas. You have repeatedly stated that if Democrats controlled the entire referendum process then it would pass. Show me how!

                      What is the project list the wise ones could formulate to ensure victory in the 10-county area???

                  • analogkid says:


                    Since Chris has clarified his position above that it is both the referendum process and the list that are flawed, I suppose we’re both right. However, even if not, it does not change my opinion that the Dems would never have done a referendum for necessary transportation improvements. For better or worse, they would have just done it, and they wouldn’t have hid behind Grover’s beard when they raised your taxes.

                    • USA1 says:

                      No we’re not. You are trying to defend Chris and give him an easy out. He won’t explain how Democrats — given full control of the process — would have ensured victory for the T-SPLOST. Chris may disagree with the whole referendum process, but in this thread he argued that Democrats could have handled it better. Please don’t make excuses for him or help him obfuscate when he’s pressed for answers.

                      You might be right that Dems would have “just done it” and not given a hoot about what people thought. That didn’t work so well for Roy Barnes, but no one’s ever accused politicians of being smart. Maybe they’d try it again and think they wouldn’t get booted from office this time.

                      So since Dems never “just did it” for all of the 1990s, when were they going to get around to it? Once Republicans had complete control and Dems had nothing to lose and could offer advice from the cheap seats?

                    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                      USA1 July 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm

                      The Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc was Democrats’ way of doing it which in a way really hurt us in the long run with all of the attention and resources that could have been used to improve inadequate surface roads and mass transit instead being expended in trying to push through an extremely-unpopular road project.

                    • analogkid says:

                      As LDIG points out, the Dems, Barnes in particular, were trying to force through the Northern Arc despite public outcry. Is that the reason why he lost? In part, yes, but the flaggers, angry teachers, and an out-of-touch national D party were much, much more significant factors in their/his demise.

                      FWIW, I’m not on Chris’s team any more than I’m on yours. I could care less about scoring points for either party. My only point is that I’d rather be complaining about honest attempts to address problems than dishonest attempts to avoid them.

                    • USA1 says:

                      Still no plan from Chris. Oh, he’s happy to run around and scream “Democrats could do it better,” but when asked for some specifics about what makes him so sure Democrats could have managed to pass the referendum…all we get is silence.

                      I find similarities amongst T-SPLOST supporters I talk with. One year ago it was that the T-SPLOST was going to pass, then it began looking to close to call but still probably a victory, next came that it was designed to be a failure and would never pass, but Democrats could have done it better.

                      So I ask for specifics and all I hear are crickets. Then comes “well, Dems would have just done it and told the people to suck it.” That’s what it comes down to, a core group of utopian planners who think they know what’s best so they’ll just force it on everyone because they could never garner enough support for their ideas at the ballot box.

                    • analogkid says:

                      Since I haven’t said it in this thread, I’ll reiterate here that I’m voting No on T-SPLOST.

                      Also, not sure if you were asking me for my plan, but I’ll tell you what it is anyway:

                      1. Take the non-transit projects from all of the T-SPLOST referenda and fund the most necessary ones through a combination of the general fund and the gas tax. Adjust income and gas tax rates and/or cut spending elsewhere until there’s enough money.

                      2. Pass a bill that eliminates the ridiculous 50/50 rule on MARTA’s spending.

                      3. Since we all know that the State will never contribute funding to MARTA, do a Fulton/ DeKalb referendum asking voters if they wish to increase their sales taxes by 0.5% to fund the Beltline, expand rail service, etc. It will pass. Easily.

                      4. Implement distance-based fares on MARTA.


          • CobbGOPer says:

            That I did do. Again.

            Let’s just hope they don’t find another technicality so we have to vote on it again in November. And another so we have to vote again next Spring. I believe they’d keep making us vote until it failed, if they could.

      • CobbGOPer says:

        I meant no on TSPLOST, but yes I set myself up for that.

        And if I were to vote against any day it would be Monday, with Sunday a close second (you can never enjoy Sundays properly with the knowledge that you have to go to work the next day).

        • Daddy Got A Gun says:

          Once the Sunday Sales Vote passes, we can get stinking drunk. Sunday is the new Friday night.

        • Baker says:

          ” (you can never enjoy Sundays properly with the knowledge that you have to go to work the next day).”

          That seems like a depressing view.

          • CobbGOPer says:

            Well, I’ve never exactly been a glass half-full kind of person. In my experience, if something can go wrong, it usually does.

      • SallyForth says:

        Yeah, but….. In Greek and Aramaic, “vino” translated to “fruit of the vine” or “grape juice.” Not the fermented version of modern times. In Biblical history, they put their new wine/grape juice into new animal skin flasks to prevent fermentation/spoiling as long as possible. Jesus preached against drunkenness, hence the drinking of the grape juice after it had fermented.

        Let’s don’t drag Jesus into our penchant today for bending an elbow with good old fermented beverages. 🙂

        • CobbGOPer says:

          “Yeah, but….. In Greek and Aramaic, “vino” translated to “fruit of the vine” or “grape juice.” Not the fermented version of modern times. In Biblical history, they put their new wine/grape juice into new animal skin flasks to prevent fermentation/spoiling as long as possible. Jesus preached against drunkenness, hence the drinking of the grape juice after it had fermented.”

          That is a Sunday school myth designed to keep Baptist children out of Daddy’s liquor cabinet…

          • SallyForth says:

            Nah, not a myth – just part of ancient history. I referenced Biblical context because DGAG’s comment pointed us in that direction. Do a little studying of generic ancient history on the topic, dig into the meanings in the two languages, etc., and you’ll find these meanings independent of any religion.

            A healthy-sized hickory is sufficient to keep children out of the liquor cabinet. 🙂

  5. Daddy Got A Gun says:

    The Election Gods have handed either the Democrats or Tea Party crew THE golden ring. Gov Deal can now be accurately described as a tax and spend – big government program republican, just like George Bush 1, and George Bush 2. He will be defenseless when he is challenged on the wisdom of raising taxes 14% to make government bigger in the middle of a recession.

    If neither the Dems or Tea Party can capitalize on that, then they need to quit politics and take up needlepoint.

    A word of advice for the Dems ….. Pick Minority Leader Abrams as your nominee. Get her ready by having her take conservative positions over the next session. She knows alot about gun laws, have her introduce the mother of all pro-gun bills (she knows who to call in GeorgiaCarry). Have her burnish her conservative bone-fides that way. Gov. Deal, Lt. Gov. Cagle and Ralston have blocked many pro-gun bills so their records are horrible and can be leveraged. She is a gem and a winner. Don’t sacrifice her sizable ability to win the Governorship in order to protect mid-town liberalism.

  6. Progressive Dem says:

    I’m glad you reached a path to voting yes, albeit tortured. The process and the projects are a compromise. It ain’t perfect, but it is well worth doing. The GOP legislature is too chicken to spend money on transportation in metropolitan Atlanta even though 60% of the state revenues are generated by the region’s economy. Despite having the lowest gas tax in the country, the amount of revenue derived from a modest increase in the gas tax would not be sufficient and doesn’t have the reach and impact of a general sales tax. It had to be a sales tax referendum.

    The projects are a compromise between the suburbs and the more urban areas. Major freeway bottlenecks will be fixed. New transit comes to one of the largest employment centers in the region and the only one not served by transit or freeway. With the addition of new streetcars in Atlanta, Marta riders can reach many more destinations. I am a transit advocate, but transit is not the sole answer for this region. Our land use pattern requires a combination of investments – a compromise.

    Equity is in the eye of the beholder. Lots of people besides those in south DeKalb have been paying a penny without rail transit. There is a lot of Fulton County north and south of the Marta line. The Northlake and Tucker were on the original Marta referendum. A line to Stonecrest should be built someday, but it isn’t as high a priority as CDC/Emory and 3 hospitals. The regional leaders were not giving DeKalb two rail lines and the one with the most jobs won out. To the south DeKalb leaders who think that rail is going to magically bring development opportunities, I say look at the east line and tell me where Marta has created growth? It hasn’t and it is not the panacea for Stonecrest either.
    This funding mechanism is not the last word for funding transit in the region; it’s the beginning. $600 million will go to rebuilding Marta. The region is going to upgrade Marta and most of the region’s counties will not get a direct benefit. If we invest as a region, the feds will look a lot more favorably t helping us with transit, but they will never help us unless we help ourselves. The next logical step after passage of TSPOST is to revamp Marta management and funding.

    We spend the second least per capita on transportation. We have the 4th worst traffic. It’s time to pay up for the projects that our political leadership – urban/suburban – Democrats/Republicans believe is the best list they can reach consensus upon. This will create jobs and make us attractive for growth. Without it, we will have peaked in 2006.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      I absolutely disagree that the T-SPLOST, which is heavily-loaded with local economic development initiatives like the Beltline, streetcars and new roads OTP, is the viable or feasible way to go about making critically-needed transportation improvements and upgrades.

      I also disagree that the overhaul and revamp of MARTA management and funding should come after a T-SPLOST passes or fails (more like failure in this case).

      An overhaul and revamp of MARTA management and funding should be a top priority no matter what as MARTA is the transit spine of the region and already extremely-difficult movement on the Downtown Connector and surface streets and roads in the severely road-infrastructure-limited city becomes almost completely impossible even without a noticeably declining MARTA as possibly hundreds-of-thousands of additional vehicles would more than likely be on the roads without it.

      But I do absolutely agree that transit alone is not necessarily the sole answer for this region and that our land use pattern requires a combination of transportation infrastructure investments.

    • seekingtounderstand says:

      Atlanta has been destroyed and come back. Don’t post her obituary for a little old penny.
      I have heard more people comment that they are turned off of TSPLOST because of the end of times cry baby tactics by the pro group. Really.

    • Calypso says:

      I agree. Gas prices at the station I usually use jumped 10 cents overnight. How in the world would anyone know to complain if 2 of those 10 cents were a gas tax increase? You just fill your tank, pay the bill, and go on with your business.

      • seekingtounderstand says:

        Calypso: if they just suspended the law that requires congressional balancing and focused the new gas tax on Atlanta area it could be amazing for all.
        The current gas tax will be held up in long term bond debts for a long, long time. We really do need funding. BUT NOT THIS BOONDOGGLE of a scam.

      • GTKay says:

        Three times that I can recall there have been automatic adjustments of 1 cent or less in the gas tax and people wailed. As a result Governors Purdue and Deal suspended the increases. The media made it an issue. The same “no tax increase” people will be all over a gas tax increase.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          The planets must be in some strange alignment because I again totally agree.

          An increase in the gas tax, while seemingly the most logical course of action, would not likely be very well received by the public and there would be a huge political price to pay in the Republican Primary for any politician who backs a direct tax increase.

          • Dave Bearse says:

            Georgia’s pandering pols are so afraid of gas taxes that gas was exempted from the 1% T-SPLOST, an utterly ridiculous exemption for a tax used to fund transportation.

            Georgia’s so-called leadership can’t lead hungery dogs with raw meat, except if its a fetus, or the meat has been slung on a gun or a gay.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          The 4% sales tax component of the gas tax is adjusted up or down every six months (or perhaps quarterly) based on price. You’ve experienced dozens of gas tax increases and decreases without knowing it.

          It’s assinine that Georgia’s motor fuel tax amplifies price volatility. The tax should be converted to a fixed amount per gallon and indexed to inflation.

            • GTKay says:

              The facts that CAFE standards are going up, more people are moving to cities than to rural areas so they’re driving less, and more younger people are opting not to own cars at all are arguments for another funding source besides the gas tax. A smaller number of people buying smaller quantities of gas will be bearing the brunt of paying for our roads. And 2 or 3 cents more per gallon is not going to cut it.

                • Self_Made says:

                  Okay, we hear you. But you still need a broader based subsidy for capital expenditures and the 20% of M&O not covered by distance based fares.

                  • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                    That suggestion was just for roads.

                    Transit would be paid for with a combination user fees in the form of distance-based and zone-based fares, public-private partnerships in which a private investor provides up to half of the cost of initial construction and up to all of the cost of continuing maintenance and operations, Tax Increment Financing (property tax revenues from new development that pops up along transit lines) and fees on traffic and parking fines (which is common form of transit financing in transit-heavy cities).

                    In the absence of sales taxes, private investment, Tax Increment Financing and fees on traffic and parking fines would subsidize capital expenditures and cover the 20% of M&O not covered by distance-based and zone-based fares.

          • Daddy Got A Gun says:

            Were you aware that 1% of that 4% goes to the general treasury? Return that money to building roads and you could pay for the truely regional projects in less than 3 years.

            GDOT estimates the diverted 1% is $175M/year.

            • Dave Bearse says:

              Yes. I support additional transportation funding, and thus would support that money being applied to transportation.

              I disagree with characterizing it as a diversion. The sales taxes paid on restaurant meals aren’t restricted to supporting agriculture for example.

    • saltycracker says:

      2 cents would be diapers – big pants would be 20, 25 cents or more. Each County needs to put a calculator to their projects, the state needs to spend in the county or send them most of the fuel tax dedicated to transportation, then let’s see that forecasted number. It will be nowhere near 2 cents and that’s my 2 cents worth.

      I’m good with it, my state delegation says no way, people will use less gas and be mad at them.

      • seekingtounderstand says:

        Actually, those peach pass lanes scheduled to go it will take out all elected officals. And that is the plan no matter what happens to tsplost. Many will not get re-elected.
        I have never talked to anyone that liked peach pass. But I do not hang out with rich people.

  7. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Chris, many (though most certainly not all) of the reasons why Georgia Democrats find themselves out-of-power and almost to the point of extinction in statewide politics can be found in your post.

    As an ITP Democrat you know that the T-SPLOST is a horrendously-bad piece of legislation as you keep describing it as “fatally-flawed” and you know that the ruling Republicans are doing nothing more than attempting to use you and other ITP and Metro Atlanta Democrats to bail them out of a political situation that is entirely of their own making in their complete failure to provide even the slightest bit of competent and coherent leadership on an issue that is as so vital to this state’s well-being as transportation and you and other Intown and Metro Democrats also know that Republicans will likely see their own power erode and that the region and the state likely has more to gain in the long run if the T-SPLOST is defeated and yet you are determined to vote for a piece of garbage legislation that was authored and passed into law by a bunch of guys that would more than likely not p*ss on you or any other Democrat if you were on fire.

    Georgia Republicans are actively in the process of cutting their own throats and yet many Intown and Metro Atlanta Democrats seem determined to stop them from doing out of an illlogical fear that things will get much worse in the shorter run, even though they know that EVERYONE, especially Georgia Democrats themselves, have nothing-to-lose and everything-to-gain in the long run by letting the cowardly Republican leadership sink with this awful piece of garbage legislation.

    It is logic like that that is the reason why Georgia Democrats are on the verge-of-extinction and have very little respect and in most cases, nothing but the utter contempt and even the outright ridicule, of a majority of Georgia voters at the moment, myself included.

    Rule #1 in politics: Never try and stand in the way or interfere when your opponent is determined to do themselves in, especially while they are trying to take everyone else down with them as they are trying to do with this clearly “fatally-flawed”, misguided and poorly thought-out total crap piece of snake oil legislation that is falsely being pushed and sold as the panacea to all of our overwhelming transportation problems.

    • SallyForth says:

      LDIG, ‘gotta agree with you about never get in the way when your opponents are destroying themselves. But I also like seeing Chris try to find a statesman-like middle ground on this complex issue. Damned if I know what I’m going to do when I walk up to that laptop to vote!

      • Calypso says:

        SallyForth, this is your conscience speaking, “Vote no on TSPLOST. Now, go write complimentary things about Calypso on PeachPundit.”

      • Harry says:

        Taxed Enough Already! Heading into a recession we don’t need even more taxes. That extra 1% will cause consumers to reduce spending and retailers to reduce workforce and in some cases, close their doors. The camel’s back is already carrying enough straws.

        • That’s laughable. A 1% sales tax won’t force anyone to change their spending habits. Besides, haven’t you read the news of the past few decades – Republicans love consumption taxes if it means no income tax will be raised.

          • Harry says:

            Yes, a 1% sales tax will cut consumption 1%. People only have a fixed amount to spend. In this economy, every 1% you take from Peter to pay Paul had better have a realistic return on investment. And, concerning the “Fair Tax” – why do you think it was not politically popular? I’d like your thoughts.

            • At most the median Georgia family spends about $20,000 / year on items that are sales taxable. Meaning a 1% increase could come from a shift in consumption, a decrease in savings etc but we’re only taking about $200. Less than a $1 / day, and going back into the economy via road building, subway car purchases etc. Does everyone get a perfect 1:1 payback on the increase no but for most people the net effect will be functionally close to 0. In other words there will be economy wide virtually no change. Raise the sales tax by 5% and we’ll talk and we can debate where the line is between barely noticeable and noticeable but I don’t think it’s at 1%.

              As for the “Fair Tax” nice quotes. It’s a flawed plan and outside of it’s cult in Gwinnett County and parts of metro Atlanta it is so incredibly easy to defeat with honest arguments. Total tax revenues stay the same, yes business entities will no longer pay taxes. That means (tada) you (if you are a person and not a business) you will pay more. Plus new taxes on home purchases, groceries etc. Very easy to defeat. In some ways, Fair Tax suffers from the same problem the T-SPLOST and every tax change/increase suffers from – pretty easy to imagine and internalize the new taxes you’re paying for but you gotta take a serious leap of faith to imagine the benefit or the reduced taxes elsewhere.

              • Harry says:

                Let me take issue with your math. TSPLOST will generate at least $1.4 billion tax revenue per year. If there are 10 million people in Georgia, that’s $140 for every man, woman and child, $560 for a family of four. This is a regressive tax. It disproportionately hits the lower income class who spend a higher percentage of their income on food and necessities.

                Do you see the parallels between TSPLOST and “Fair Tax”? Both are taxes on consumption. It’s great for some to say that we need to discourage consumption and encourage more saving, but a consumption tax – robbing Peter to pay Paul – is not the way to do it, especially when household budgets are stretched to the max. This is why TSPLOST will fail and why the “Fair Tax” was a nonstarter. It’s not a small thing for families on a tight budget.

                • We are somewhat in agreement – I don’t think the average family of 4 is buying $56k worth of taxable purchases in a year though, seeing as the median household income in the state is only $49k before taxes.

                  • Harry says:

                    The median income is doubtless lower than the mean income, however when considering the cost of vehicles, food, over-the counter cosmetics and remedies, school supplies, etc., a much higher ratio of that lower-than-median income goes to sales-taxable purchases. Consider that the sales tax rate in Fulton would rise to 9%, and the large number of fixed income people in that county who can hardly deal with high sales tax on top of the already high-priced stores in poorer neighborhoods in that county. No wonder Vincent Fort and the NAACP are opposed. They feel their constituents will pay a higher proportion of income for very little benefit back in their pockets.

                • mpierce says:

                  As someone who would vote for the FairTax and just voted NO on TSPLOST, I don’t see the parallel. 1) The FairTax removes the tax burden from the poor with the prebate. 2) The FairTax would replace a current tax, but the TSPLOST is an additional tax. 3) The FairTax would reduce the size of government; the TSPLOST increases the size of government.

                  • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                    The problem with the FairTax proposal is that it’s pushers refer to it as a sales tax, which makes it easy for the opponents of the tax to untruthfully demonize it as an extra-added sales tax that will drive up the cost of retail purchases.

                    The supporters of the FairTax or a similar concept might have a lot more success if they just advocated for the elimination of income taxes and the end of all exemptions on corporate taxes.

                    Basically the supporters and pushers of the FairTax concept should communicate their vision of tax reform with a more populous message that they’ll eliminate all income taxes and replace them with a corporate tax with very few, if any, exemptions.

                • Jon Richards says:

                  Harry, you are ignoring the money spent by non-Georgians, who will pay the 1% tax for their purchases. Think convention goers, travelers to Hartsfield, business people from out of town, etc.

                  • you says:

                    So what. Those of us who live here are stuck with the tax everyday. We are broke and tired of the government wanting more and more from us.

                    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                      That’s why we need to get rid of the state gas tax and only charge it on fuel transactions made by out-of-state drivers and vehicles.

                      We also need to get rid of the 1% sales tax that Fulton and DeKalb counties pay to fund MARTA in addition to getting rid of all of those 1% local SPLOSTS for local roads and just fund all roads and transit with distance-based fees paid by those who actually use these structures according to how much they actually use them.

                    • Calypso says:

                      LDIG, you’re venturing into the fanciful world of unicorns, leprechauns, and GT national championships with remarks like that.

                      Time to gently put your feet back on the solid plane of reality.

                    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                      Calypso, how firmly planted in reality can we possibly be if we’re talking about Georgia politics and transportation policy?

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