Elections Have Consequences, T-SPLOST Edition

December 12, 2012 10:36 am

by Mike Hassinger · 45 comments

Anyone rejoicing at the failure of the T-SPLOST earlier this year (hey, remember that?) needs to read this article in the Athens Banner Herald:

If you want to repeal it, well, that ain’t going to happen,” Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, told a gathering of his colleagues at the Biennial Institute, a pre-session issues briefing for state legislators at the University of Georgia.”

Repeal what? The proposed tax failed, right?

Well, the tax part failed (in all but three regions in Georgia) but the rest of the “Transportation Investment Act” is still law. Like the part that said the percentage of LOCAL funds for transportation projects will be 10% in areas that approved the T-SPLOST but must be 30% in areas that didn’t approve the T-SPLOST.

The three regions that passed TSPLOST will get a discount on the local funds match, 10 percent instead of 30 percent, that must be spent on transportation projects that receive state money. Some politicians representing areas where it failed have called for blocking or watering down the discount.”

That’s not going to happen. Emphasis mine, but that’s also the sentiment under the Gold Dome.

bullFrog December 12, 2012 at 10:53 am

But, but, but … Doug Collins said they’ll fix that in the next session.

Oh, well, not much truthful has come from his lips in some time.

Justin Tomczak December 12, 2012 at 11:53 am

U.S. Representative (elect) Doug Collins said he hoped the state legislature would find a way to fix the issue…

He’s going to representing the 9th District in Congress in 2013.

Just Nasty and Mean December 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm

…..Weasel wording politician….

Just Nasty and Mean December 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

So, the legislature, in an attempt to coerce voters to vote for TSPLOST by penalizing them!
Then the MAJORITY OF THE STATE votes to tell the politicians the debacle of TIA/TSPLOST was bad, and they didn’t want it. ….
….and now we should pay a penalty? What?
I am going to my representative and Senator and DEMAND—DEMAND they repeal this.
If they don’t—your name is MUD in the next election. Got it?

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Well, just like the I-85 HOT Lanes, Go Fish Georgia, the Northern Arc, the Outer Perimeter, etc, the TIA/T-SPLOST and the 30% penalty for regions that voted it down kind of seemed like a really good idea at the time (kind of).

I mean, what better way to increase already ridiculously meager transportation funding than by making it even more ridiculously meager and even more difficult to obtain, right?

IndyInjun December 12, 2012 at 7:41 pm

If it gets repealed, then Governor Deal and the GOP legislature will have thrown CSRA Regional Chairman Ron Cross and Vice Chairman Joe Jackson under the bus and turned a lot of Republican Party loyalists into committed, bitter foes of that party.

Cross and Jackson’s counties were donor counties to the tune of nearly $90 million and they used all of their political credibility to get that tax increase passed in the Augusta/CSRA region.

The GOPers in the legislature should have supported a court challenge to get this mess thrown out before the tax gets collected. By not doing so they have compounded their outrageous stupidity. Reversing it after the tax is being collected in the 3 regions that relied upon the penaly’s existence in making their voting decision for that tax increase is going to cause an entirely different, yet just-as-intense, firestorm.

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm

IndyInjun, I agree that there should have been an effort to challenge the T-SPLOST in court and get it overturned before the tax is collected in the three regions that approved it.

The reason why the T-SPLOST may not have been challenged in the courts immediately after its embarrassing defeat in the nine regions that voted it down was because GOP leadership did not in anyway want to rehash something that turned out to be overwhelmingly unpopular with the public.

GOP leadership also needed all hands on deck and as much unity within the party as possible to get public support for their other big initiative, the Charter Schools Amendment which ended passing with very heavy support from Democrat voters in the urban core of Metro Atlanta.

I also completely agree that it was an act of unfathomable outrageous stupidity by the GOP-dominated State Legislature to attempt to minimally fund overwhelming transportation needs through a piecemeal method with what was an often vaguely or ill-defined T-SPLOST when many poorly-defined local SPLOSTs are rapidly declining in popularity, particularly amongst the definitely conservative voting constituency of the increasingly politically powerful Northern suburbs of Metro Atlanta.

But no matter how hard some political officials in may have worked to get the T-SPLOST passed in the three regions that voted for it, the thinking in Metro Atlanta may likely be that it is better to throw the loyal officials that you speak of in the three regions that approved the tax under the bus than to withstand the continued and increasing ire of angry conservative voters in and around the increasingly politically powerful suburbs of Metro Atlanta.

This may especially be the case for a Governor Deal who, because of last year’s I-85 HOT Lane mess that was left designed by Perdue, cannot necessarily count on getting the same amount of support in the 2014 GOP Primary in the counties of the I-85 anchored Northeast Metro Atlanta corridor that propelled him to a very-narrow victory over Karen Handel in 2010 GOP Primary.

Given his current political situation where, at the moment, his support is less-than-certain moving forward, Governor Deal would likely happily throw the officials who supported the T-SPLOST in the three regions where the tax passed under the bus if it meant it would help him gain enough support for re-election in Metro Atlanta where the tax was wildly unpopular across a very large swath of the voting public.

The T-SPLOST was especially unpopular from the jump on the right side of the political spectrum in the politically-powerful northern suburbs of Metro Atlanta where GOP primaries, and by extension, statewide elections, are decided these days. Something that will figure very heavily in any decision that GOP leadership makes on how to address the building public outrage over the 30% transportation funding penalty.

IndyInjun December 12, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I am proud to have had a role in defeating TSPLOST in Columbia and Lincoln Counties. Talk radio just didn’t have the reach into the rural counties.

The GOP is rotten to its core and I would like to see that party DIE.

I am conservative to the hilt but I totally despise the GOP “leadership

CORRUPT. CORRUPT. CORRUPT. Every damned one of them.

You can’t reform the likes of them. You have to boot them.

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 13, 2012 at 1:01 am

I absolutely can in no way disagree with your sentiments about the intensely-dysfunctional and intensely-corrupt Republican Party.

But right now, the only other option would be to put an even more intensely-dysfunctional and intensely-corrupt Democrat Party back in power.

Though, on the “good” side, Democrats will tell you upfront that they are going to raise your taxes and blow the money out the window (by way of their pockets).

When they were in power, by no means could the long-ruling Democrats be considered a bargain, but they did at least seem to have some type of rudimentary adult supervision in the House under the late Speaker Tom Murphy, which has made them look like world-beaters compared to the insane asylums that the now-ruling Republicans have run in recent years in the Legislature under “leaders” like Sonny Perdue, Glenn Richardson and Chip Rogers.

Needless to say, unless some relatively-uncorrupted political Independent comes to our rescue or the Republicans in charge can improbably pull-off some type of unexpected magical turnaround, our choices as voters don’t seem to be too terribly desirable at the moment.

Bob Loblaw December 13, 2012 at 9:36 am

Don’t worry IndyInjun, Debbie Dooley already said that her TEA party is going to sue on the constitutionality of the law. See? Don’t you feel better?

IndyInjun December 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Debbie’s TEA got waterlogged from floating in Boston Harbor and sank.

Bob Loblaw December 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Something like that :)

Nonchalant December 12, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Perhaps the discount should be put to referendum as well.

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 12, 2012 at 5:25 pm

No need for a referendum. Everyone involved, including the geniuses who dreamed it up, knew from the start that the 30% penalty was, is and will continue to be really bad transportation policy.

The Legislature needs to act accordingly and get rid of the 30% as soon as possible as it only makes what was already a bad transportation funding situation even that much worse.

Mike Hassinger December 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Actually, the “penalty” was part of the law that voters were approving/disapproving. You just never heard about it during the “campaign.”

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 12, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Exactly. If you think that this thing was unpopular before the vote, just think of even more wildly unpopular the T-SPLOST would have been if voters had known in abundance about how their regions would be hit with a steep transportation funding penalty for voting down what was already really bad transportation policy.

IndyInjun December 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Don’ tell me I didn’t hear about it. It was a very prominent aspect of the public meetings we had here.

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm

You may have heard a lot about it out in your part of the state, but most voters in and around Metro Atlanta, despite voting it down in very-heavy numbers anyway, seemingly knew nothing about the 30% transportation funding penalty before the T-SPLOST vote.

Heck, many Metro Atlanta voters didn’t find out about the transportation funding penalty until AFTER they voted down the already highly-unlikable T-SPLOST.

IndyInjun December 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm

We need to run all of the #$*&^#$^*’s behind this out of office.

However, you must recognize the political pressures that are in place against changing or repealing it. Leaving supporters of it out hanging is not enhancing to a political career, because if Deal et al cut and run on this, how will anyone rely on alliances with them ever again?

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm

For Governor Deal, it is not about career enhancement, but simply about political survival at this point.

If there is an overwhelming amount of outrage over the 30% transportation funding penalty expressed to state lawmakers early on in the coming legislative session, that penalty will likely be but a distant memory by the end of the session, especially if Deal thinks that the penalty will hinder his re-election chances in even the slightest way.

You’ve got to keep-in-mind that it is the heavily-populated northern suburbs of Metro Atlanta, where the T-SPLOST was the most unpopular (to the tune of well over 80% unpopularity in some cases), that provide the key to winning statewide elections these days.

Heck, even in the three regions where the T-SPLOST passed it still was not very popular with the conservative base that decides statewide elections by way of the GOP Primary.

IndyInjun December 12, 2012 at 11:16 pm

His TSPLOST vote probably sank Lee Anderson in the 12th.

With respect to the legislature, I would suggest to you that the penalty is probably going to be effective. By the time anything remedial can be done, the case can be made that the time would be better spent toward getting TSPLOST approved in 2 years in the regions where it failed.

If the penalty goes away, expect a law suit from the 3 regions that passed it.

The heat from this debacle isn’t going away and I hope it burns every political career hitched to it into a cinder.

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 13, 2012 at 12:40 am

IndyInjun, because it was defeated so overwhelmingly in the Atlanta region, I don’t know if we’ll see the T-SPLOST ever again, at least on a regional level. Though we just might see something to that effect within the corporate limits of the City of Atlanta which was the only place in the Atlanta region where the otherwise overwhelmingly unpopular T-SPLOST received a positive vote by a margin of roughly 57-43.

GOP leadership, especially Governor Deal, who is in what could become a precarious position as he heads into what could be a tough re-election campaign if a capable challenger steps up, is in no mood to rehash the T-SPLOST because as one prominent Republican legislator put it, “There’s no point in trying to dress up a crashed car”.

After the thrashing that the T-SPLOST received in heavily-populated Metro Atlanta, Republicans are extremely reluctant to attempt to even broach the very touchy issue of inadequate transportation funding, an issue that seemingly turns very controversial for the GOP whenever they apply their often-thoughtless and shortsighted “bull-in-a-china-shop” approach to problem-solving.

As for the threat of a lawsuit if the 30% post-TSPLOST transportation funding penalty goes away. These guys in the Georgia Legislature don’t care about the threat of lawsuits. If anything, the threat of lawsuits only seems to work to their political advantage as they use the lawsuits to appease their restless conservative political base in the suburbs of Metro Atlanta and provide work to their buddies in the legal field.

IndyInjun December 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Repealing the 30% penalty will produce a lawsuit from the 3 regions that passed the damned thing who get the promised 20% advantage. I would love to see the thing thrown out in its entirety, but alas the tax will be collected in less than 3 weeks and then it will be too late.

TSPLOST passed in this region for 2 reasons: 1) The EBT crowd in Augusta doesn’t pay sales tax on food and voted heavily for it, based upon promises about public transportation and 2) the dominant print media’s dishonest cheer leading for it. Talk radio simply did not have penetration into the rural counties to counter the propaganda. 3 counties voted it down, to find that their votes are now subordinated by the REPUBLICAN governor and legislature to the welfare crowd.

Good going GOPers and I hope that soon turns into “Good riddance.”

Mike Hassinger December 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

It’s not really a penalty -As I said earlier, it was part of the law the voters were approving -when they didn’t approve it. (Except in three regions.) So, it’s really more of a “consequence.” Republicans who voted it down understand that.

IndyInjun December 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm

It was a negative inducement and one that TSPLOST proponents cited at every turn as being a gun to their/our heads.

This WAS a GOP creation and it became a monster that will destroy a truly rotten-to-the core party.

Bob Loblaw December 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

You folks are blaming the wrong Governor.

IndyInjun December 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm

You are right Zell Miller had nothing to do with it. Both of his GOP successors had everything to do with it, especially Sonny.

GTKay December 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm

The 30% match is not an issue for the Atlanta region:

“the match penalty for regions in which the T-SPLOST failed (local governments must now provide a 30 percent match for state grants, as opposed to 10 percent had the tax passed) does not impact the ten counties of metro Atlanta. According to Long, all ten counties already are matching way more than 30 percent of what’s available to them in the state’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant program…”

http://www.atlantamagazine.com/fivepoints/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10414651

The bill was online for 2 years before the vote. There were numerous public hearings and information sessions all over the state for months prior. Many voters got their info 2nd and 3rd hand without actually going to the source. Elections do have consequences.

IndyInjun December 12, 2012 at 11:10 pm

The personal-agenda-driven Morris Communications is responsible for ramming through TSPLOST in the CSRA region. TV was about as bad. We made the vote close despite overwhelming media bias.

Voters indeed had plenty of chances to find the truth. They just didn’t look for it, nor do they understand basic math and economics. There were plenty of ANTI TSPLOST resources on line.

Elections have consequences, all right. The consequences must be terminated political careers.

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 13, 2012 at 2:49 am

IndyInjun, there may have been plenty of anti-TSPLOST source online and there may have been plenty of chances for voters to find the truth before the TSPLOST vote on July 31, but for voters to find the truth, they first have to be aware that there is a campaign going on in which there is a truth.

Heck, just in Gwinnett alone, where voter participation in local elections can be as low as 6%, much of the population either does not know or care whom their state and local government representatives are as they are likely transplanted from another state or country and may not even speak English.

So it is not that much of a stretch to think that many likely voters may not necessarily be aware of all of the nuances of a particular issue. Instead many voters may judge an issue or a piece of legislation through a simple once-over eyeball test, something that may be even more damning for a controversial piece of legislation like the T-SPLOST, where voters may have decided in one look that they don’t like a piece of legislation and are not voting for it.

IndyInjun December 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Preaching to the choir, TLDIG……..remember I am in a region where the dumbasses passed it.

Engineer December 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Really, is there any need for that kind of foul language?

IndyInjun December 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm

That was a lot milder than what fits.

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm

:)

David Staples December 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Yeah, how dare you use the word “region”. ;-)

IndyInjun December 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm

And how dare I suggest that people voting for a tax increase that overwhelms their growth rate in income are stoopid. I forget that everyone gets a ‘pass’ from basic mathematics these days.

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 13, 2012 at 2:28 am

Even if the 30% match/penalty is seemingly not an issue financially for the Atlanta Region as you are saying, the 30% matching funds penalty is still very much a political issue moving forward for the nearly two-thirds of voters that voted down the T-SPLOST in and around the Atlanta Region.

Whether in actuality or principle, people still think that they are being penalized for voting their hearts and minds by the same state government that asked them their honest opinion by way of the voting booth.

And even if the TIA/T-SPLOST bill may have been online for two years before the vote with numerous public hearings and sessions all over the state for months prior, many voters did not necessarily seem to be fully aware of what was going on at least until the advertising campaign started up earlier in the year, if not completely until within the final 2-3 months before the July 31st vote.

It was almost just like the lead-up to the HOT Lane debacle on I-85 where, despite all of the public hearings and stories in the news media, many commuters may not have even been keenly aware of what was going on until they woke up on that morning of October 3, 2011 and found that they could not use the HOV lane unless they had 3 people in their vehicle or paid a toll.

Many, if not most, people don’t necessarily keep close track on what is going on with politics and transportation policy and the bigger picture like many of us on this board who are transportation enthusiastists. Many people only know how their personal point-to-point commute is affected by traffic conditions on any given day.

Joseph December 13, 2012 at 8:07 am

I personally opposed the TSPLOST in our Region, but the voters here turned out a victory for it (the ads kept saying something about jobs).

However, now that Columbus has the TSPLOST – I will adimately support it and the matching piece promised by the state. What’s right is right and Columbus “did its part” to earn the reduced match. The other 9 regions chose their path and should abide by the law as it stands.

HOWEVER… I knew from the beginning this would happen. In our region we heard “oh we don’t want to be the only region not to pass it.” My rebuttal has always been “what happens when we are the only region [or part of a small group of non-Atlanta regions] TO pass it.”

And the answer to my question is this discussion right here. Columbus and the 2 other regions are about to be hurt by doing “the right thing” under TIA.

BUT the 3 regions must also remember that a majority of the Legislature now represents Atlanta and we have no hope of blocking any sort of attempt to allow the Atlanta region to have its cake and eat it, too.

Like I said from the beginning, TIA is bad policy period, however – now that we have it, I would hope everyone would agree to abide by the terms of it. But I do know better…

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Joseph, you are most certainly correct that TIA is bad policy.

But that’s the thing since not all, but most everyone, recognizes that the TIA/T-SPLOST is such bad transportation policy, those who voted it down and defeated it are most likely not going to want to be bound by what many regard as being the continuing aftertaste and after-effects of a poison pill that was meant as a punishment for not voting to affirm said bad policy.

Even though many voters in the three regions that passed the T-SPLOST may seem to have been aware of the 30% matching funds penalty for regions that defeat it, many voters in the Atlanta Region don’t seem to have been very much aware of the existence of the penalty.

When I would tell Metro Atlantans about the penalty that would activate after the defeat of the TIA, I would personally be called a liar and a propagandist who was working on behalf of T-SPLOST proponents to coerce people to vote for the hated bill.

You can’t expect people to want to abide by the continuing terms of bad policy that they thought they defeated overwhelmingly at the polls.

In 9 of the 12 regions, Georgians voted to kill the T-SPLOST, not to triple their local municipal transportation taxes.

If the state wanted to triple local municipal transportation taxes, then they should have been honest and upfront about wanting to do so instead of deceptively inserting that desire into an unpopular referendum as a poison pill with continuing after-effects upon the defeat of a poorly conceived and convoluted piece of legislation that has done nothing but made voters more angry.

Engineer December 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm

How is it deceptive when it is all written in plain sight and widely available for inspection for 2 years prior to the vote?

IndyInjun December 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Engineer, the bill was not deceptive, but the propaganda certainly was. The “base case” scenario used to sell it was wildly inflated, so much so that the projects in the last 3 years probably will run out of funds.

The Last Democrat in Georgia December 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Engineer, like I stated before, even though the information may have been online for 2 years prior to the vote, how many people do you actually think are going to go out of their way to seek out the nuances of transportation policy?

Heck, roughly 50% of the population of Metro Atlanta was against the T-SPLOST from the start, or as soon as they heard that it was a new tax that they would personally have to pay, while others may not have even been aware that there was a vote on a tax going on until June at the earliest.

And there were others who were against the T-SPLOST because they read through it and found items and projects that negatively affected something that they were either for or against personally.

Like those in South DeKalb who came out against the tax because there would be no rail line extended out the I-20 East Corridor, or those who were against the tax because it would be used to fund a new freeway in in the abandoned right-of-way of the controversial Northern Arc/Outer Perimeter in Gwinnett, sparking widespread fears that the tax was being used to revive the unpopular outer bypass highway.

There were also those in the conservative outer suburbs who were against the tax because they thought that they would be paying a tax that would be more of a benefit to the City of Atlanta than it would be to their outlying neighborhoods, while there were those in the more left-leaning urban core who thought that the taxes they paid would be of more benefit to conservatives in the the outer suburbs than to their Intown/ITP/South Metro neighborhoods.

Engineer December 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Until the first year’s money comes in, there is no way for you or me to say one way or another.

Engineer December 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm

quick note: that was meant as a reply to indyinjun, but for some reason it put it in a separate reply tree.

IndyInjun December 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm

True, but their figures had a HUGE bust in them right out of the gate. The revenue growth next year was based upon personal income growth of 8.8%, so I feel pretty comfortable in my assertion.

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