I moderated a discussion last night in Gwinnett hosted by the TEA Party to discuss the T-SPLOST. Given that all but three of the audience indicated they were against the T-SPLOST, Michael Sullivan of CTM deserves absolution of at least three past sins for his attendance and demeanor. We had a generally healthy discussion, with much of it centering around what should be done differently for “Plan B” should the T-SPLOST fail on Tuesday. We then had a half hour of audience questions which I re-named the “attack Michael Sullivan” round. Good times.
Senator Renee Unterman gave opening remarks, and then filled in for a bit of the Q&A. Neil Herring of the Sierra Club rounded out our panel. it was interesting to say the least watching the TEA Party teamed up with the Seirra Club and share many of the same views on T-SPLOST, despite their differences on the issue of transit.
The Atlanta TEA Party and the Sierra Club will be holding a press conference at 12:30pm today to announce the areas where they are in agreement of what the next plan should look like. In reward for trying to drive from Roswell to Lawrenceville yesterday afternoon during rush hour, I was provided an advance copy:
1) Discard the current three different taxes on motor fuel and enact a single motor fuel tax, based on the value of the commodity and allowed to rise and fall with price inflation, dedicated solely to funding transportation with a portion[a] of the motor fuel tax receipts available for “all transportation purposes,” including operating costs as well as capital and maintenance.
2) Allow any two or more local governments to create, and fully fund, transportation projects to meet the needs of their citizens through referenda on local motor fuel or sales taxes, and other revenue sources.
a) Allow referenda to levy local fractional sales taxes and motor fuel taxes of less than one percent for local transportation funding purposes.
b) Leave decisions over specific allowable allocations of local transportation taxes and fees in control of the local governments and their agencies that administer them, free from State interference.
c) Allow combinations of local governments to form fiscal partnerships with GA DOT for sharing capital and/or operating costs of local transportation projects to meet the needs of their citizens.
3) Before elected officials are given more money they need to show they can be trusted with what they have. As a first step toward transparency and accountability, DOT Board members should be elected at annual public meetings of Congressional District Legislative Caucuses in each Congressional District for open public election (no secret ballots) to one-year terms of service and review of transportation activities in the District.
4) Before MARTA is expanded, it should be brought up to date on maintenance and be restored to a reasonable level of service.
a) The Legislature should end its interference in MARTA budgets and resume an oversight role. Voters and elected officials where the MARTA tax is collected (Fulton, Dekalb and Atlanta) should decide how MARTA revenue should be spent.
b) The hotel/motel tax the City of Atlanta collects yearly should in some part go to MARTA or transportation needs, not to be used to build a new stadium for the Falcons.
c) Other options that should be considered include distance based user fares, charge for parking at MARTA lots, use part of the hotel/motel tax to help fund MARTA – even consider raising the tax to fund transportation needs.
That’s frankly more common ground and movement than I would have expected from either group. I’m not sure it’s still “a” solution, but may be part of one. Discuss below.