Give this the green light

Investing in transportation now paves brighter road toward future

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We often talk of “saving for a rainy day,” and indeed it’s important to gird yourself for hard times such as we’re experiencing now.

But by the same token, wouldn’t it be smart to prepare for the good times, too – to make them even better?

Today’s down economy won’t always be with us. How can we best position ourselves for a better future?

The state of Georgia is giving us precisely that opportunity: Voters in each of 12 regional transportation districts, including the Augusta area, will vote in the July 31 election on whether to create a 1-cent transportation special purpose local option sales tax – the proceeds of which would be used exclusively in each region.

In the case of Augusta, if voters in our 13-county region approve the TSPLOST, we’ll be funding $841 million in area road projects over 10 years. Statewide, the projected investment in transportation would be nearly $19 billion over the 10-year life of the program.

It is, as Georgia Transportation Alliance Executive Director Douglas J. Callaway says, bigger than the ’96 Olympics – and perhaps “the best economic development opportunity in the past 35 years.”

The TSPLOST would help replace gasoline tax revenues for road construction and maintenance, funds which are declining because of more fuel-efficient cars and more conservation-minded drivers. The TSPLOST would be equivalent to a 25-cent-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax.

And because it is a sales tax, it also would be paid by anyone who transacts business in the state, spreading the burden as much as possible.

The TSPLOST also would give local communities utterly unprecedented influence over what major road projects are performed: Each region’s road project list has been put together by local officials, after input from the public. Each penny raised would stay in the region. In fact, it gets even more local than that: while 75 percent of the funds would be used on “regional” projects, 25 percent would be used by each local government for local projects.

One other side benefit to the TSPLOST, which is huge: The regional approach, wisely approved by the 2010 General Assembly, has encouraged more regional cooperation than we’ve ever seen. The regional approach has made us see the magic of collaboration better than ever.

“I’ve seen more regionalism through this effort,” says former Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce Chairman Phil Wahl, “than I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Moreover, the magic of the regional approach is that no one from Atlanta or anywhere else in the state will impose the tax on us. It’s an investment we will decide to make ourselves.

Of course, the flip side to that is important to bear in mind: While each region is cooperating internally on these road projects, they are simultaneously competing against one another region-by-region. If one region’s voters reject the tax – and they can’t vote on it again for at least two years – but a neighboring region
approves its TSPLOST, then the second region has a competitive economic development advantage over the first.

Among the keys to economic development – freedom, property rights and education – is transportation infrastructure. The future will go to those who can transport goods and people the most efficiently.

That’s never been truer than today – especially in Georgia, which will soon see increased commerce coming from the ports in both Savannah and South Carolina, as harbors there are dredged to make more room for international cargo ships.

Opposition to the TSPLOST has emerged among our friends and neighbors, and it’s perfectly understandable. No one likes new taxes, and never more than now.

But we respectfully submit to our friends who oppose the TSPLOST that their objections are largely emotional and, as a result, will be as transitory as the current economic climate.

In addition, we would argue that not all taxes are created equal. Some are more burdensome than others; certainly a hardly-noticed sales tax is preferable to a big increase in fuels taxes, or to income or property taxes for that matter.

And some taxes are simply more productive than others. As opposed to a tax keeping the gummy wheels of the government bureaucracy moving, a transportation tax, like an education tax, is an investment in ourselves, in our economy and in our future.

You also have to take into consideration how committed we have been historically to that future. Amazingly, Georgia is about third in the nation in population growth, yet near rock-bottom in transportation investment: Only Tennessee spends less per capita.

As for the timing, what better time to jump-start the economy than when it really needs it? Fully implemented, the TSPLOST statewide would produce an estimated half-million jobs over 10 years. But, of course, those jobs will be mainly paving the way for more jobs to come, as the private sector blossoms from an improved infrastructure.

Besides, there has never been a better time to hire a contractor. It won’t get any cheaper.

Advanced voting for the July 31 election, open to any registered voter, actually begins Monday.

We know it’s difficult to see the future when we have to focus so much on getting by today. But it won’t always be that way.

Let’s plan now for a sunny day.

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Riverman1
99357
Points
Riverman1 07/08/12 - 08:56 am
9
2
Y'all Know Someone?

Y'all must know someone who will profit from all the construction? Those are the only people in favor of this HUGE tax increase. Adding a penny is a large increase percentage wise. This is an $841 MILLION tax over ten years. Does everyone get that?

In addition, you add another level of government with this 13 county regional thing that does not directly answer to the people. How are people in Lincoln County going to like paying for Augusta's Public Transit? Vote NO!

By the way, it's stupid to deepen both Charleston and Savannah harbors enough to handle the new super ships at a cost of about a billion dollars. They are only 100 miles apart and both states will benefit from either one handling the super ships.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 07/08/12 - 12:20 am
8
1
You can not be serious. STOP

You can not be serious. STOP THE SPENDING MEANS STOP THE SPENDING. This economic situation will not be remedied any time soon and the voters had better be prepared to fight. Obamacare is already a kick in the groin for most small businesses. Retiring another 1% of disposable income out of customers pockets......I thought people were supposed to save their money. This tax is Obamacare for roads, and all the crazy ideas these politicians come up with like trollies and canals. It is out of control....the streets we have are full of empty buildings, businesses stressed by multi-billion dollar internatiinal competitors and their own governments that do not know how to stop spending. Merchants should not be expected to collect the taxes. If it is so necessary, then just raise property taxes. The people will understand....its necessary.....and good for them....STOP THE SPENDING. I do not make enough to give up.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 07/08/12 - 01:54 am
4
1
we respectfully submit to our

we respectfully submit to our friends who oppose the TSPLOST that their objections are largely emotional and, as a result, will be as transitory as the current economic climate.

resistance is futile. the current economic climate aint goin nowhere fast

seenitB4
103730
Points
seenitB4 07/08/12 - 07:22 am
2
4
Sorry guys

We need some relief in the Atlanta area.....we are packed here...like bees in a hive & they are stinging & angry....we only venture out at certain times of the day....when it gets to the point that you have to stay put til after the mad rush is over you will understand.
You would only spend it on beer anyway..:)

seenitB4
103730
Points
seenitB4 07/08/12 - 07:24 am
1
2
Know someone :)

I wish I did know someone...I would have my helicopter pad nearby.

Carleton Duvall
6308
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/12 - 07:39 am
6
1
AC wrote

Let’s plan now for a sunny day.Let’s plan now for a sunny day.Let’s plan now for a sunny day.

I would rather wait for that sunny day.

Willow Bailey
20605
Points
Willow Bailey 07/08/12 - 08:41 am
9
0
People do not favor more

People do not favor more taxes primarily because of a lack of trust of those making the decisions. That is not emotional, it is factual. Address that concern instead of using shame and fear as a motivation and the people may get behind you.

Carleton Duvall
6308
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/12 - 08:47 am
8
0
Willow Bailey

Well said. That is the way many of us feel.

Riverman1
99357
Points
Riverman1 07/08/12 - 09:22 am
8
0
A Simple Fact for the Chronicle

When you take $840 MILLION out of private hands in our 13 counties over a decade, you are doing monumental harm. That money in private hands would have done far more to help the economy than in government hands. Sure when you deal in pennies it's easy to hide facts, but it would be a tremendous amount of lost money for consumers.

Add up the sales tax of all the purchases you make and add 14% which is what the penny increase is. That's a lot in anyone's book.

Assuming there are about 400,000 people in the region and about 4 people per family that would be about $8400 per family over the decade. Crazy huh?

dichotomy
39301
Points
dichotomy 07/08/12 - 10:18 am
9
0
Fine. But

Fine. But FIRST..........

Show me that the existing gasoline tax is being divided equally between the "regions" and not all being spent in Atlanta......or still being used to pay for all of the road construction that went on in Atlanta for the '96 Olympics. Show me a proposal that ensures that ALL transportation tax money, including state gasoline tax and Ad Valorm tax, will be divided proportionately back to the counties and county districts from which it comes.

Show me how our existing dedicated tax revenue for road contstuction is being tightly managed by a contracting process that prevents outrageous windfall profits to contruction companies and that prevents the "10 supervisors standing around watching one illegal alien Mexican doing all of the work" syndrome.

Show me how our existing road contruction contracting process actually attempts to save the taxpayer money by enforcing completion times and prevents more windfall profits by allowing contractors to come back for more money for "cost overruns".

In other words, WE think YOU have WASTED and MISALLOCATED a hell of a lot of the money the "regions" already gave you and WE THINK that now you just want another POT OF MONEY because we, the "regions" ain't been getting squat from the "transportation" taxes that we already pay you.

So how about you rewrite YOUR TSPLOST proposal to ELIMINATE the STATE GASOLINE tax and eliminate the AD VALOREM tax and then maybe I would vote for it. I do support the regional concept however I do not support paying the extra sales tax and STILL HAVING TO FEED THE ATLANTA METRO AREA with my STATE GASOLINE TAX money and feed my local government with AD VALORM money.

What you are proposing is to make us PAY MORE to get WHAT WE ALREADY SHOULD HAVE in our region because you spent everything in metro Atlanta. This sounds like you are taking a que from the federal government social security scam where they take our money for 50 years and then tell us "oops, we spent it all somewhere else...guess we will have to either raise taxes or cut what you were going to get".

TParty
6004
Points
TParty 07/08/12 - 10:28 am
8
0
I'm all for investing in our

I'm all for investing in our community, even if it means that my taxes are raised a little- but it needs to be done right. Well said Dichotomy.

The money we are already paying to keep our vehicles registered should be going towards investing in the roads. The money in sales tax when purchasing fuel should already be going towards investing our roads.

So is that happening or not?

I want to see the book keeping for this city... this is like that garbage pick up issue- where they are going to only one day, but not lower the costs for us...

Just paying more for less!

Carleton Duvall
6308
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/12 - 10:36 am
6
0
14% tax increase ??

Actually, Riverman it is a 25% increase if you calculate it on local option taxes which this is. Either way though it is a lot. But it is ONLY a penny.
GEEZ.

Riverman1
99357
Points
Riverman1 07/08/12 - 10:53 am
6
0
Carleton, Certainly Another Way to View It

Carleton, interesting. But if you look at it that way wouldn't it be 33%. One of three? Haha...makes my head hurt, but anyway you look at it, $840 million for about 400,000 people in the 13 county region is a lot per family....$8400.

Carleton Duvall
6308
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/12 - 11:14 am
4
0
The $840 milion

makes my head hurt also. The way one calculates the percentage is of no consequence.

willie7
1047
Points
willie7 07/08/12 - 12:19 pm
9
0
No!No! No!
Unpublished

Vote No for T- SPLOST. It would mean I would be paying at least $500 more in taxes based on my consuming spending. And I don't know how the money would be spent to upgrade state roads in Augusta.

jpbrig
370
Points
jpbrig 07/08/12 - 12:34 pm
4
2
riverman got it wrong

Riverman got it wrong Lincoln County is not paying for public transit in Augusta. Augusta is going to pay for public transit in Lincoln County. Richmond (Augusta) is a donor county and Lincoln is on the receiving end.

Carleton Duvall
6308
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/12 - 01:59 pm
6
0
TSPLOST projects

I don't know how important this is but since it has been brought up I thought maybe I ought to jump in. I found a list of projects and found this ,County Project # RC-000096 , Augusta Transit Operations. I found no transit projects for Lincoln County. Looks like Riverman may be right.

Carleton Duvall
6308
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/12 - 02:01 pm
4
0
Riverman

You are welcome.LOL

socks99
250
Points
socks99 07/08/12 - 03:45 pm
3
0
Likely, proponents have

Likely, proponents have fudged some information regarding transportation funding in GA to boost the prospects for passage;

"The TSPLOST would help replace gasoline tax revenues for road construction and maintenance, funds which are declining because of more fuel-efficient cars and more conservation-minded drivers."

While gas tax revenues may have declined, it's likely other revenue sources more than made-up for that decline so that total spending on transportation in GA has shown a decades long increase and not a decrease.

Many of the "talking points" come from a GA State University study; socks is betting the study was made and paid for by folks who wanted a big fat bail-out for developers and contractors at, you guessed it, the public's expense.

Still, historically, voters have been quite willing to support "just a penny" for all sorts of boondoggles, poorly managed projects, and just the usual plain old graft and corruption. Now, GA-DOT might get some real competition in each of these areas!

Little Lamb
50764
Points
Little Lamb 07/08/12 - 04:06 pm
7
0
DOT Corruption

One of the reasons many of us are opposed to the TSPLOST is because of past and present corruption and inept management within the Georgia DOT. Projects take five times as long to complete than they should, and contractors never pay a penalty for missing deadlines or for shoddy work. This proposed tax puts hundreds of millions of dollars right back into the pockets of those same bureaucrats plus creates these new regional boards; a whole new level of bureaucracy on top of what we've got today.

Vote NO!

Carleton Duvall
6308
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/12 - 05:15 pm
6
0
We agree

There seems to be more agreement on this thread than I have seen in a long time. If this is any indication of the way people feel throughout the county I would say that the TSPLOST is DOA.

No_Longer_Amazed
5146
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 07/08/12 - 06:31 pm
7
0
TParty, you brought up solid waste...

The other evening on TV news-6 it was mentioned that one of next weeks commission meetings would "approve" the new contract, and even though we were going to once-a-week pick-up the cost was going to remain the same @ $320 a year.

Well, I only currently pay $302 a year, so of course I started to wonder and started researching.

Guess what, in the Engineering Service Committee Meeting Agenda for 7/9/2012 it is stated "Financial Impact: Our budgeted rate for 2012 is $320 per year and we believe that rate should be appropriate for the new contract starting in 2013."

Don't be surprised when we get BOTH a decrease in service and an increase in fees next year :-(

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 07/08/12 - 07:30 pm
1
0
I can't wait to see the way
Unpublished

I can't wait to see the way the TSPLOST is worded on the ballot. I am sure something will be tacked on to enhance chances for approval. As for gas taxes, they aren't high enough to affect consumers. How can I say such a thing? Well tghe next time you go past an intersection with 3-4 stations, just note the differences in prices and the fact that the pumps at all of them (they cheapest and most expensive) are not lacking customers. As long as people don't want to inconvenience themselves to go to the cheapest location, we will be hit in the pocket books. P,S. Betsween Gate 5 and Windsor spring road the difference in prices generaly is 25 to 29 cents a gallon. Back in the day, I remember gas as being 25 cents a gallon.

augusta citizen
10315
Points
augusta citizen 07/08/12 - 08:16 pm
5
0
What???????

"...we respectfully submit to our friends who oppose the TSPLOST that their objections are largely emotional..."

I didn't feel any respect when I read that, I felt like I had been slapped in the face.

VOTE NO TO TSPLOST!!!

eb97
835
Points
eb97 07/08/12 - 08:58 pm
2
0
It's a Big Fat No for

It's a Big Fat No for T-Splost.
The big boys need to get over it because it's not going to happen this year. The voters will be heard loud and clear, can we all spell
NO

idrive
12
Points
idrive 07/08/12 - 09:45 pm
0
7
Vote yes -

Since when did 1 penny out of 100 equal 14% or 25% or 33% increase. The vote is for a 1% increase on the money you spend.
So we have a wall around our 13 counties and only the estimated 400,000 are the only people who spend money here? Ludicrous ! The Masters alone brings in an estimated 250,000 visitors with an annual economic impact of more that $123 million dollars alone. Not to mention the fishing and sporting tournaments that bring people from all over the state. Why not use OPM ( Other Peoples Money) to help make improvements to our transportation needs.
Richmond, Columbia and McDuffie are donor counties, meaning the other 10 counties will receive a little more than they put into the pot. Isn't is fair that the Big three give back a little since these are the counties where many people work and spend their retail dollars? Fine by me.
Be careful not to twist, spin and speak like the politicians you so mistrust.

Riverman1
99357
Points
Riverman1 07/08/12 - 10:16 pm
2
1
To be fair to JPBrig

JPBrig said, "Riverman got it wrong Lincoln County is not paying for public transit in Augusta. Augusta is going to pay for public transit in Lincoln County. Richmond (Augusta) is a donor county and Lincoln is on the receiving end."

I think I know what you mean. A percentage of the sales tax Richmond Cty generates will go to rural counties. But my view is the people from Lincoln County shop in Richmond County paying their way. If we were using another form of taxation Lincoln County would decide where their tax money went in addition to their citizens not being on average $8400 per family poorer over the next decade.

What this is all about is politicians are afraid to impose more taxes on people who are saying enough. We're in a cotton picking recession-dang near depression. So the politicians try to sneak taxes in that don't require their vote which may end their political careers.

blues550
380
Points
blues550 07/08/12 - 11:08 pm
1
0
NO!
Unpublished

No government needs No more money to speand. No!

Little Lamb
50764
Points
Little Lamb 07/09/12 - 07:01 am
3
0
Prize

This editorial may be the most incongruous in Augusta Chronicle history. Part of my sip of grapefruit juice ended up in my nasal passages when I read this statement:

Moreover, the magic of the regional approach is that no one from Atlanta or anywhere else in the state will impose the tax on us. It’s an investment we will decide to make ourselves.

There is no magic in this new tax. It's more like sleight of hand. Hundreds of millions will be taken by government coercion from its citizens and trasferred to the DOT, where favored contractors will receive luxurious payments.

And do you remember when former president and demagogue Bill Clinton famously used the term investment as a substitute for taxing and spending? The Augusta Chronicle was all over that lie like a duck on a June bug, and rightfully so. But now we see ACES crawfishing and using Clinton's disgusting and false analogy to try to convince voters to raise their own taxes.

How the mighty are fallen.

Carleton Duvall
6308
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/09/12 - 07:05 am
5
0
idrive

You make some valid points about voting "yes". You need to brush up on your arithmetic though. I won't dwell on that, however. The problem is that many of us simply don't trust the people in government that handle our tax money. We don't want to give them any more. More taxes seems to be the answer to all problems and we are sick of it.

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