The more urgent of the proposals is Senate Bill 73, titled the “Anti-TSPLOST Penalty Act,” introduced by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) and co-sponsored by three Cobb Republicans, Lindsey Tippins and Judson Hill, both of Marietta, and newly elected Hunter Hill of Atlanta.
SB 73 would strike the penalty section of the Transportation Investment Act authorizing the TSPLOST rejected by voters in nine of 12 regions last July. In Cobb an overwhelming 69 percent of voters nixed the plan for a 1-cent regional sales tax to fund economic development, mass transit and some transportation projects.
As a result, voters that turned down the 10-year tax proposal are being punished for doing so. The act tripled the local match for maintenance and improvement grants from the state Department of Transportation, increasing it from 10 percent to 30 percent for counties and cities that rejected the TSPLOST.
That’s outrageous, but what’s even worse, the punitive 30 percent local match will remain in force “for at least 24 months and until such time as a special district sales and use tax is approved.” So the punishment will continue until the voters in Cobb and other dissenting counties approve a TSPLOST tax. If they never do so, the penalty will be permanent unless repealed.
It was bad enough that Gov. Nathan Deal and a majority of state legislators wrote this punishment clause into the law. But they are adding insult to injury by refusing to right the wrong by repealing it.
SB 73 hasn’t died yet. Sen. Albers said in a mid-February news release the bill had been presented to the Roads and Bridges Subcommittee of the Senate Transportation Committee. But even if the bill gets through the Senate, which is doubtful, Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, is on record against repealing the penalty. Last December, an Athens newspaper reported that Roberts told colleagues at a pre-session briefing on issues: “If you want repeal, well, that ain’t going to happen.” Take that, Cobb County.
There’s speculation that if the penalty were repealed it might trigger court challenges by regions that approved the TSPLOST, thus many legislators just don’t want to touch the issue because it’s so “thorny.” Some of the thorns are provided by TSPLOST supporters such as the development industry whose “voice,” the Council on Good Government, opposes SB 73 and favors this outrageous government penalty on people who didn’t vote the way the government wanted.
It doesn’t matter that the total amount of lost funds for Cobb or any other county or city might be relatively small. What matters is that voters in Georgia are being punished for not doing something the government wanted them to do. Just how is this any different from ObamaCare that fines/taxes/punishes people for not doing something?