Georgia officials scramble for new transportation plan

Sunday, Aug 5, 2012 3:04 PM
Last updated 9:07 PM
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ATLANTA -- Throughout the campaign for the transportation tax voted on Tuesday, proponents continued to say there was no “Plan B.” Now they have to draft one.

Nine of the 12 regions across the state soundly rejected the proposal to add a 1-percent sales tax to fund specific transportation projects in their areas. Only the regions centered on Augusta, Columbus and Vidalia approved it.

In crafting a fallback strategy, officials’ first question is whether to keep bonus provisions the three regions earned as part of their enticement to support the tax. Within days after Tuesday’s returns, politicians from regions that nixed the tax were calling for repeal of the bonus which requires less local funding for state road projects in the three regions.

Regions where it passed will only need to put up 10 percent of the costs while the other nine will have to shell out 30 percent.

“The coercive nature of this law is unthinkable. Our state leaders should not hold our own fuel taxes hostage because ‘the people’ voted down a bad referendum,” said Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown, a spokesman for the anti-tax Transportation Leadership Coalition.

The same law setting up the tax vote allows the regions to schedule another one in two years. Some leaders, like Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, have already said that’s their intention.

Research shows that tax referenda rarely pass the first time they’re before voters, partly because their complexity takes several elections to explain, according to Georgia State University Professor Sean RIchey.

“The default position for many voters is no,” he said.

Gov. Nathan Deal is also saying no, at least to any new vote. He issued a statement Wednesday saying he got the message of what voters were thinking the first time.

“The voters of Georgia have spoken,” he said.

His next step is to use existing state revenues and the higher local match to tackle the high-priority projects.

“It’s certainly disappointing that we won’t have the resources to accomplish all the projects needed to get Georgians moving quicker, but it does force state officials, including myself, to focus all our attention on our most pressing needs,” Deal said.

He offered as the top of the list an interchange on Ga. 400 that he travels through between his home in Gainesville and the Capitol.

Two of the most vocal opponents of the road tax announced their own version of Plan B prior to Tuesday’s balloting. The Sierra Club and Atlanta Tea Party Patriots unveiled their joint blueprint which calls for dedicating the existing 1-percent tax on gasoline sales to transportation and away from the state’s general fund.

The groups also want to allow local governments to hold referenda on taxes for any fraction of 1 percent, letting them partner with one or more neighboring governments if they choose.

For different reasons, the two groups agree on tapping so-called consumption tax to get the road users to foot the bill. The conservative tea party wants to minimize reliance on income taxes, and the conservation-minded Sierra Club wants to discourage driving in favor of mass transit.

“Although the Sierra Club and the tea party will never agree on everything, we can find common ground,” Colleen Kiernan, Sierra Club executive director, said at a joint press conference.

Whether Deal and legislators share that common ground remains to be seen.

One thing that has already become clear is that without the tax, money will be scarce.

“There will be belt-tightening,” the governor said.

He had called on all state agencies last week to trim another 5 percent of their budget next year, including the Department of Transportation.

Deal vowed to pare the projects getting funding to the barest essentials.

“We’ll have a ‘need to do’ Transportation Improvement Program list, but not a ‘want to do’ list,” he said. “In addition to tight state budgets, we’re also facing a significant reduction in federal funds, so tough choices await.”

No doubt, he’ll take time in coming days to confer with members of Georgia congressional delegation while they’re home for the August recess about automatic cuts about to trigger for the federal budget. If Congress doesn’t disarm the trigger with tax hikes or targeted spending reductions, transportation grants to the states will be among the cuts.

Deal concluded comments after the primary returns with an understatement of sorts.

Tuesday’s referendum isn’t the end of the discussion but rather the beginning of a larger one.

“We have much to do,” he said.

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More2Story
28
Points
More2Story 08/05/12 - 06:10 pm
3
0
Question Whether to Keep Bonus Provisions?

"In crafting a fallback strategy, officials’ first question is whether to keep bonus provisions the three regions earned as part of their enticement to support the tax. Within days after Tuesday’s returns, politicians from regions that nixed the tax were calling for repeal of the bonus which requires less local funding for state road projects in the three regions.
Regions where it passed will only need to put up 10 percent of the costs while the other nine will have to shell out 30 percent."

THE REMOVAL OF THE BONUS PROVISIONS FROM THE PROPOSAL WOULD CONSTITUTE A BREACH OF PROMISE TO EVERYONE WHO VOTED "FOR" THE PROPOSAL AND FORCE THOSE REGIONS TO SUBSIDIZE THE REGIONS, ATLANTA METRO IN PARTICULAR, WHO VOTED "AGAINST" IT.

MUST READ: http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2012/jul/24/steve-brown/Tra...

Riverman1
82444
Points
Riverman1 08/05/12 - 07:11 pm
2
0
Absolutely wrong to drop the

Absolutely wrong to drop the bonus. If that's done the vote should be thrown out completely. They don't have a clue how to handle the 25% who voted in favor of the tax.

dichotomy
32144
Points
dichotomy 08/06/12 - 05:58 am
3
0
I knew that would be the

I knew that would be the first thing they would think about doing.

Ain't I fortunate to live in one of "stupid fools" counties that approved this mess and dragged the whole region down with them. I hope the whole thing gets dismantled by the courts because I know the lawsuits are coming. Way to go RC....or should I say the easily led, easily fooled districts that caused this thing to get passed.

Riverman1
82444
Points
Riverman1 08/05/12 - 09:59 pm
2
0
I bet Don Grantham is

I bet Don Grantham is apoplectic. He thought he had gotten his hands on all that money.

rebellious
20630
Points
rebellious 08/05/12 - 10:14 pm
2
0
Who Says

He hasn't? Dandy Don will spend, spend, spend and when the feces hit the oscilator, say "What money? It's all gone!" Berkman Road, Broad Street, then if any is left over, ummm..........What's the name of that road in South Augusta? Crap.... Wheeler Springs, Windsor express, Diamond Springs? Oh just forget it. Don't we need a new ballpark? Get Deke and Cal on the phone, I think we found the money for the new stadium!"

Little Lamb
45371
Points
Little Lamb 08/06/12 - 09:06 am
1
0
Augusta Saps

Walter Jones wrote:

Research shows that tax referenda rarely pass the first time they’re before voters, partly because their complexity takes several elections to explain, according to Georgia State University Professor Sean Richey. “The default position for many voters is no,” he said.

Perhaps these are national research results. But here in the good ole CSRA, we vote yes, yes, yes, and yes again when it comes to sales tax referenda. The only time Augusta voted no was when the Billy Barn was on the ballot. What Billy got in return for that embarrassment was a free TEE Center, free parking deck, and a killer management agreement that guarantees a steady cash flow of taxpayer money even when the TEE Center sits empty.

Riverman1
82444
Points
Riverman1 08/06/12 - 11:07 am
0
0
LL, and furniture for HIS TEE

LL, and furniture for HIS TEE Center. The contract comes out next month to buy the furniture.

useful
633
Points
useful 08/06/12 - 06:11 pm
0
0
Of course it wrong to take

Of course it would be wrong to take away the bonus.I didn't vote yes to fund
Atlanta's roads or columbia counties roads.

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