Analysis: TSPLOST vote shows Georgia's great divide

Sunday, Aug 5, 2012 2:33 PM
Last updated 9:07 PM
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ATLANTA -- Despite recent efforts to meld Atlanta and the rest of the state into a unified whole, Tuesday’s primaries made clear there are still two Georgias.

A sign supports local TSPLOST effort  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
A sign supports local TSPLOST effort

The most stark reminder was the tally for the transportation tax. It crashed like the Hindenburg in nine of the state’s 12 regions, passing only in those centered on Augusta, Columbus and Vidalia.

Many observers say Atlanta television ads and news available in the homes of viewers throughout the northern part of the state sank the proposal in the city’s 10-county region and those surrounding it. Metro Atlanta is in the world’s largest toll-free calling area and the nation’s eighth-largest television market, creating a certain gravitational pull that tugs on the suburbs and exurbs in its orbit.

But it’s not that people in the outer reaches of those regions think like Atlantans. The opposite is actually the case. People outside of Atlanta rejected the tax precisely because they don’t like the big city and interpreted the pro-proposal ads as implying that their locally generated taxes would go toward the Atlanta projects featured in the television spots.

Veteran pollster and campaign strategist Matt Towery accused the pro-tax campaign managers with incompetence for using a TV message for a referendum in the first place. The confusion it sowed in the neighboring regions should have been expected, not to mention the passions it fanned among opponents.

“The moment I realized that the consultants had chosen to go with television ads I knew two things — someone was going to make a great deal of money off of the ad buys, and the effort would be doomed,” Towery wrote in a column on InsiderAdvantage.

The funding of the separate campaigns in Atlanta and the rest of the state leads to more evidence of the divide between the Georgias. Large corporations pitched in $6 million for the effort in Atlanta to improve the traffic those corporate executives contend with personally. They contributed little or nothing to the $2 million statewide campaign to enhance roads they never travel on, despite having business interests across the state.

Here are some examples of companies giving to the Atlanta campaign and ignoring the Other Georgia: The Coca-Cola Company, $197,000; The Home Depot, $150,000; Genuine Parts $100,000; RockTenn, $100,000; Siemens, $100,000; Turner Broadcasting System, $100,000; Waffle House, $25,000; Verizon Wireless, $20,000. A few made token donations to the statewide campaign along with their big Atlanta gifts, including AGL Resources’ $100,000 Atlanta, $2,500 statewide; AT&T’s $100,000/$5,000; Bank of America’s $50,000/$2,500; Wells Fargo’s $50,000/$1,000.

Most of the companies contacted declined to comment, but Wells Fargo’s spokesman Jay Lawrence said it’s simply that the majority of the bank’s employees work in Atlanta.

“For us it’s a quality-of-life issue, for all Georgians,” he said. “For us, the quality-of-life issue drove our decision.”

So, it’s not just that people across the state harbor ambivalence toward Atlantans, but apparently, the feeling is mutual.

The tax referendum wasn’t the only thing in Tuesday’s results pointing to geographic division. Look at the returns for the non-binding casino question before Republican primary voters.

The statewide total was almost evenly divided, 50.24 percent for and 49.76 percent against. However, a map showing the counties’ support or opposition offers a clearer picture.

Most metro Atlanta counties favored expansion of legalized gambling to fund education, with the exceptions of Hall, Gwinnett, Coweta, and Carroll where it failed by 1 percent or less.

The state’s other cities rejected it, with the exception of Athens and Columbus. Rural counties across the southern, eastern and northeastern parts of the state that opposed it also stand in sharp contrast to the metro Atlanta counties. There were nine rural counties where it passed but with fewer than 100 GOP voters total, suggesting a primary straw poll includes some anomalies.

This election reflects the state’s division in another way, the redistricting of legislative and congressional seats. More seats are being squeezed into metro Atlanta where population density results in some districts that are little larger than a handful of neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, districts in the rest of the state get bigger and fewer.

That means more legislators and members of Congress will come from Atlanta leaving fewer to represent the rest of the state’s concerns.

As the Atlanta contingent grows in size and power, it becomes easier to dismiss the rest of the state, just as the corporate executives did in their campaign contributions.

Speaking of political contributions, the combined $1.3 million given to all GOP candidates for state offices in 2010 from the metro areas of Augusta, Savannah and Brunswick combined total less than either Cobb or DeKalb county gave individually. That’s another reason state politicians can use for focusing on the capital rather than the state the surrounds it, although they would never say so publicly.

It was no coincident when Gov. Nathan Deal offered as an example of the first transportation project to address after the tax’s defeat. He called for revamping an interchange on Ga. Hwy. 400 that’s in the heart of metro Atlanta.

Comments (19) Add comment
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Riverman1
83615
Points
Riverman1 08/05/12 - 03:51 pm
8
2
We need to do our shopping

We need to do our shopping outside of our T-district. It shouldn't be too hard because 75% of the districts voted no.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/05/12 - 05:21 pm
6
0
better informed
Unpublished

sounds to me that the people exposed to the media of metro Atlanta region where much better informed on this issue than those in Augusta's media market.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/05/12 - 05:35 pm
4
0
the Coast
Unpublished

Of course this analysis doesn't explain why T-splost was also rejcetd in Savannah and the entire coast region by a big margin. I don't believe they are exposed to Atlanta media.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/07/12 - 05:26 am
6
0
TSPLOST to be challenged in GA Courts

Plans are already in motion after the elections to challenge TSPLOST based on several issues.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 08/05/12 - 06:16 pm
5
1
The Great Divide

Headline: "Analysis: TSPLOST vote shows Georgia's great divide"

The headline hit the nail on the head, but the story missed the mark.

The divide is between the educated and uneducated. That's why the tax failed throughout most of the state.

dichotomy
32760
Points
dichotomy 08/05/12 - 06:58 pm
5
0
Seems like Richmond County's

Seems like Richmond County's primarily black districts fell for the advertising. I just can't understand why. But I'm sure the surrounding counties who will be spending our tax money appreciate their vote.

paulwheeler
124
Points
paulwheeler 08/05/12 - 09:33 pm
3
0
To paraphrase an old GA

To paraphrase an old GA Public Television ad: "Serving Atlanta, and the rest of Georgia..." Say nomo, this sums up the whole situation.

Little Lamb
45865
Points
Little Lamb 08/05/12 - 10:02 pm
6
0
Riverman is right

about the shopping.

I am going to spend the next four months learning the best routes, the best grocery stores, the way to Lowes, and the best gas stations in North Augusta, both from the I-20 route and the 13th St. route. Everything else, I'm buying by mail order out of state (no sales tax that way).

Of course, if you buy a new vehicle or boat, you are stuck with your address for the sales tax. Hopefully, I won't need a new car for eight or ten more years.

Little Lamb
45865
Points
Little Lamb 08/05/12 - 10:03 pm
4
0
Maurice

Hey, and you can bet I'll be eating more at Maurices and less at Shanes.

Conservative Man
5564
Points
Conservative Man 08/05/12 - 11:00 pm
3
0
The great divide.

exists because the uninformed are led by the unscrupulous to vote for the unimaginable. Thereby ensuring the unelected will profit from the misinformation disseminated by the aforementioned unscrupulous to the detriment of the great unwashed....
Succinctly put..... The "establishment"is gonna stick it to the "little guy"...yet again.....

communistwookie
69
Points
communistwookie 08/06/12 - 06:29 am
3
1
Minority vote

Two things keep upsetting me reading the comments by you so called "religious and freedom loving Americans".

1. Why does it matter what skin color someone is when they vote? Seems like a good 3/5 posts on here want to bring up that blacks voted yes and it's somehow their fault and they are uneducated? They go to the same school system the rest of us go to...

2. Do you not realize you are the minority vote here? In our district a majority voted yes. If you didn't vote I can't help you there you only have your self to blame. As far as Columbia county goes, it was barely voted down by a small margin and in that regard I feel for you and get the argument that you shouldn't of been lumped in. But to say you are going to go give south Carolina all your money? Go for it.. You will only see our area suffer when people start losing their jobs, hope you feel good about your self.

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 08/06/12 - 07:34 am
1
0
communistwookie: In none of

communistwookie: In none of the previous posts do I see any mention of race. Believe me, ignorance is widespread. I know a lot of uneducated white people. The posts that I read on this article do not seperate the voters by race, only by regions. Conservativeman has it exactly right in his post, that in the end we will all suffer because of this. So much effort was put into passing this monstrosity, someone besides the taxpayer is going to profit from this.

nocnoc
42466
Points
nocnoc 08/06/12 - 08:04 am
3
0
follow the money as usual

Well a group just spent over $8 million promoting TSPLOST and it failed in 9 of 12 regions. I willing to bet that TSPLOST to them was about $$$ and a profit, and not about seriously solving traffic problems.

Little Lamb
45865
Points
Little Lamb 08/06/12 - 08:04 am
2
0
Jobs

CW posted @ 6:29:

. . . But to say you are going to go give south Carolina all your money? Go for it . . . . You will only see our area suffer when people start losing their jobs, hope you feel good about your self.

“Our area” includes Aiken and Edgefield counties. Moving our commerce to South Carolina to save on taxes will not cause an overall loss of jobs. It will merely shift jobs from Augusta to Aiken and North Augusta.

The real loss of overall jobs comes from higher and higher taxation.

nocnoc
42466
Points
nocnoc 08/06/12 - 08:58 am
3
0
Directions

My directions
Hwy 56 to Hwy 56 Loop to US-25/US-1 to North Augusta
or, Bobby Jones to SC, exit south on US-1, exit US-25/Martintown Rd.

We figure we save $300 a year shopping SC.

WHY
SC. Gas is usually 20 cents cheaper a gallon.
Wally World is cleaner and not as crowded, with lower prices,
Yo-mart is cleaner and not as risky to shop and has lower prices,
Kroger is cleaner and not as crowded with somewhat lower prices,
Lowe's is better stocked and has more staff, with prices about the same.

North Augusta has all the stores we need within 1/2 mile of each other. Unlike Augusta that has shopping tossed to the 4 winds over a 20 mile area for South Siders.

Little Lamb
45865
Points
Little Lamb 08/06/12 - 08:55 am
3
0
Savings

Well, you'll be saving even more when the Augusta sales tax goes up in January.

Little Lamb
45865
Points
Little Lamb 08/06/12 - 09:02 am
2
0
Property Tax

Don't forget that Fred and the boys passed a property tax millage increase just a week or so ago. Also, Fred is trying to arm-twist the boys to pass a stormwater tax (aka rain tax) at an upcoming commission meeting.

If the sales tax increase is the cake, then the property tax increase is the icing, and the new rain tax would be the cherry on top.

nocnoc
42466
Points
nocnoc 08/06/12 - 09:09 am
1
0
TAXING SOLUTION

Those off the wall suggestions I read weeks ago are really starting to make since.

All Tax increases of any nature must be justified and approved by the voters. If you don't pay taxes, you should not be allowed to vote on increasing taxes for others.

Dixieman
14942
Points
Dixieman 08/06/12 - 09:42 am
1
0
Ask our State legislators to repeal it

TSPLOST was created by statute. It can be REPEALED by the State Senate and House despite the vote in the three stupid regions. As your representative and senator to introduce a bill to repeal this monstrosity!!

Little Lamb
45865
Points
Little Lamb 08/06/12 - 10:03 am
1
0
Trouble is,

Dixieman, that the representatives and senators you are asking us to contact are the same representatives and senators who passed the TSPLOST legislation in the first place, and who campaigned tirelessly for its passage in the referendum.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 08/06/12 - 11:04 am
1
1
Let me tell you how it will

Let me tell you how it will be...
Here's 1 for you and 19 for me...

cause I'm Fred Russell yeah! I tax the rain!

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 08/06/12 - 11:59 am
0
0
I live in a county just outside of Atlanta
Unpublished

and we're tired of the "big city" bullying by those "special people", atlantans.

Warnin
19
Points
Warnin 08/06/12 - 02:46 pm
0
0
Possible repeal
Unpublished

Well since only 3 districts approved a new tax on themselves and Deal won't be able to appoint but 3 TSPLOST Tzars and will reap very little political hay I predict that this whole thing will fade into the either. I love the fact that those who voted yes will now pay more to get the very same thing all the rest of us will get from DOT out of gas tax revenue.
Where were your legislators? Was no one looking after you in Atlanta.
Gosh, down in Brunswick the only things we could come up with for TSPLOST were four laning a road so people could bypass Brunswick and building a new general aviation terminal on Saint Simons Island. A terminal to house one rental car office and a private pilot's lounge. I guess our legislators look better care of us than your did of you. I would also add that maybe Augusta should become the new headquarters of the Georgia Toll Authority. Maybe you could put a toll on the bridges to SC as I see thousands moving across the river to avoid the high tax Georgia environment. Moving to SC is like getting a 20% raise!

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