How This Year’s Transportation Funding Debate Is Like TSPLOST, and How It’s Not

In a story that aired Monday, 11 Alive took a look at the report issued by the Joint Transportation Study Committee, and framed the committee’s recommendations in terms that many of its viewers could understand: the 2012 TSPLOST, which was overwhelmingly rejected in the Atlanta region, although it passed in several middle Georgia regions.

The story focused on one of the recommendations the committee made:

Implement a one-cent statewide sales tax which would generate approximately $1.4 billion dollars each year. The General Assembly will have discretion as to how it will appropriate such funds for transportation purposes.

The TSPLOST also proposed a penny sales tax that would be used to pay for transportation improvements. But, that’s where the similarities end. For one thing, if the sales tax idea were to be adopted, the legislature would have wide latitude in determining how the revenue would be allocated between transportation and other purposes. And, in addition to a sales tax, there were almost a dozen other possibilities for funding transportation recommended by the committee, including ways to use existing revenue sources, such as the ‘fourth penny’ of the sales tax on gasoline, to pay for transportation.

Deciding the proper mix of existing revenue and new revenue, and where it will come from, is what the legislature will need to decide during the session that begins on Monday. And, at least one group that was very vocal in its opposition to the TSPLOST will be paying attention to any proposed plan.

Atlanta Tea Party chair Julianne Thompson said this to 11Alive’s Matt Pearl:

“I don’t think that new revenue is definitely off the table.”

Thompson would not rule out the need for a tax hike but wanted to make sure the legislature first utilized solutions that involved existing revenue streams.

“There would have to be some sort of legislation or some sort of plan put forward,” Thompson said, “and there is no plan right now.”

Tea Party and other groups that ended up opposing the TSPLOST in Atlanta appear to agree that a solution must be found to resolve Georgia’s transportation issues, which haven’t gotten any better since the vote two and a half years ago. Coming up with a solid plan to fund the backlog will be the key to getting their support going forward.

2 comments

  1. Rambler14 says:

    “Coming up with a solid plan to fund the backlog will be the key to getting their support going forward.”

    I disagree.

    You can not develop a more solid plan than the list of projects that the TSPLOST contained, that the Tea Party actively campaigned against 2 years ago. It was very simple. Vote Yes and these projects will be constructed, very similar to SPLOST’s in Cobb, Gwinnett, Forsyth, Douglas, etc.

    • Jon Richards says:

      Rambler,

      I was speaking of a funding plan rather than a projects plan. There were a lot of objections to the projects selected for the TSPLOST in Atlanta, partially because of issues with the roads vs. transit mix, and partially because some of the projects were criticized for being local projects that would not help move traffic any faster than without passing the tax.

      The other argument, boiled down, was, “Why are you asking us to pay an additional tax when the money you have now is not being spent on transportation,” basically a reference to the fourth penny, and a lack of trust in government.

      I have not heard a lot of concerns about specific projects in the current discussion. Perhaps this is because we (at least to this point) aren’t debating a transit vs. roads allocation. Also, there are plenty of project lists out there — we know what the major needs are.

      The discussion under the gold dome this year will be over what funding level is appropriate, and how to raise / reallocate those funds. Once those decisions are made and approved, figuring out where the money goes is less complicated.

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