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Jun 12

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Why I disagree with the Tea Party on the T-SPLOST

     First of all, let me clear the air:  I am a Tea Partier.  Like most Tea Partiers, I believe that if the U.S government doesn’t get real (real quick) about its fiscal spending, what is happening in Greece will happen to us – sooner than we think.  The problem for rural counties like the one I live in is that there is not enough infrastructure to sustain the county and no wide range of options for raising the revenue for future infrastructure.  Many rural counties are not dreading descending to the level of Greece – they are aspiring to ascend to the level of Greece.  As a member of a local transportation committee, I believe that I amy have some further insight on this proposed sales tax, especially in terms of how it affects the county in which I live.

     The T-SPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) is part of a July 31st referendum in the state of Georgia, designed to make up for less federal money to pay for roads (due to the bad economy) and less state and local money (due to less money being generated by gas taxes).  It is rather ironic that, due to the increase in fuel efficiency in most vehicles today, there is less fuel being dispensed as frequently, and, as a consequence, there is less revenue being generated by the gas tax for new roads and the maintenance of existing roads.  A shame that Americans are punished for more efficiency, but such is life.

     The T-SPLOST in Georgia is a regional, one cent per retail purchase, sales tax.  The state is divided into 12 regional districts, but the entire state will either approve or disapprove the entire referendum on July 31.  If approved, each regional district will enjoy the benefits of the revenue raised within its district.  Revenue will not be transferred from south Georgia to metro Atlanta.  My county (Pike) is in Region 4, along with 9 other counties, namely Butts, Lamar, Upson, Spalding, Meriwether, Coweta, Troup, Heard, and Carroll Counties.  Obviously, each of these counties have their own individual transportation needs, and these are reflected in the project list for that region.  Last year, equal representation from each county came up with a “list of needs” for that county, and, if the T-SPLOST is approved, the projects on that list will be funded.  75% of the revenue generated for each region must go towards funding the project lists, by state law.  The remaining 25% of the revenue generated is “discretionary spending”, which can be spent by local governments within each region on existing road maintenance, etc.  The one-cent T-SPLOST will be in effect for 10 years and cannot be extended beyond that time without consent from the voters.  Projected revenue for the ten year period for my county is $16.1 million, and that amount of money could never be generated by the county on its own.

   Naysayers, including many in the Tea Party will say that tax is an unnecessary power grab, andthat nearly all of the money from each region will to state projects around atlanta.  They also cite numberous “unnecessary” projects on the project lists:  MARTA funding, light rail, bike paths, sidewalks, etc.  They also claim that GDOT already has over a billion dollars in unused money right now.  (A recently passed state law stipulates that GDOT must have the full amount of required money for a project before they can proceed on a project – no more partially completed, partially funded projects.  Therefore, the billion dollars is not a surplus.)  While I certainly understand people’s concern about greedy, powerful government, in this case, I will have to take it on faith that T-SPLOST money will adhere to state law, namely beacuse my rural county has no real alternative.  While my county does not have to deal with the “importance” of issues like light rail like other regions do, every project on our local project list is very necessary.  My rural county has two basic ways of raising revenue for infrastructure projects – SPLOST funds or raising property taxes.  (I think we know how a raise in property taxes would go over.)  While some in the community are SPLOST weary, none of us can ignore the deteriorating condition of many of our roads – paved and unpaved.  On July 31st, I will pull the lever for T-SPLOST.  The federal and state money trees are dying, and it is time for local governments with limited means to move forward or risk going back several decades with deteriorating infrastructure.  People that live in poor, rural counties can fight the good fight for smaller government on the national level, but, unfortunately, they have very little choice on the county level.  I am simply voting “yes” for my county’s future.

For more information, go to:  www.t-splost.com

And, to be fair, an opposing side:  www.traffictruth.net

Either way, get educated by July 31st!!  Know why you made your choice!!

Permanent link to this article: http://conversaving.com/2012/06/12/why-i-disagree-with-the-tea-party-on-the-t-splost/

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