Column: Think voting for T-SPLOST will create a tax? Think again
by John Watson
July 11, 2012 11:59 PM | 4208 views | 26 26 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Listening to opponents of the Regional Transportation Referendum, you’d think the July 31 vote for an $8.5 billion regional investment in transportation is the difference between no tax and a new tax.

And yet, those who make that argument are already paying a tax, right along with the rest of us. They just don’t realize it.

On July 31, voters in Cobb County will cast ballots on a $980 million investment for Cobb County alone that will untie our snarled traffic mess, create thousands of new jobs and help our region compete for businesses and prosperity with other regions across the nation. The $980 million will be raised through a one-penny sales levy to make hundreds of road and transit improvements in our county. Additionally, our city and county governments will also receive a $170 million direct investment for local transportation priorities over the next 10 years.

Detractors cite several reasons for their opposition. Some don’t trust government, but transportation is as much a function of government as national defense. Others don’t like the list of improvements — even though more than 200,000 citizens participated in drafting the list that received unanimous approval from a disparate group of our region’s leaders. 16,900 of those participants were from Cobb County.

Finally, there are those who oppose new taxes, and as a lifelong, anti-tax conservative, I can certainly understand their position. But we’re already paying a congestion tax — and it’s real, uncontrollable and will continue to grow if we fail to invest in regional transportation.

According to the Texas Transportation Institute, time stuck in traffic costs the average metro Atlanta commuter $924 a year in wasted fuel and lost time. This congestion tax is the worst kind of tax because it’s uncontrollable. It knows no boundaries. It rises in direct proportion to fuel prices and traffic snarls. It depletes our collective productivity. It takes precious time from our families. It steals dollars from our pockets — and nobody voted for it.

And the congestion tax is actually more costly than economists’ conservative estimates. Economists haven’t factored the extent to which the congestion tax discourages new businesses from locating in our region and creating new jobs. They haven’t factored the extent to which we pay higher prices for everything from food to refrigerators due to the higher cost of shipping goods in our region. Nor have they factored the drain on home values as prospective homebuyers choose locations with less traffic.

The Regional Transportation Referendum gives us a first shot at getting the congestion tax under control — and at considerably less than $924 a year. An additional penny will cost the average consumer an estimated $112 annually. In exchange, they’ll get traffic relief, more income-producing time at work and more leisure time at home.

“Infrastructure is one of the core responsibilities of government and one that cannot be shortchanged by other controversial spending,” Douglas R. Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, recently wrote in response to an opponent of the referendum. “I believe investment in infrastructure pays dividends for decades and is a wise investment of taxpayer dollars.”

Investing in regional transportation will not only relieve the congestion tax, it will also spark tens of thousands of new jobs, reduce time spent stuck in traffic, improve home values in traffic-snarled communities, and give us all an opportunity to be more productive at work and at home.

This isn’t a choice between no tax and a new tax. It’s a choice between public investment that will create jobs and attract businesses such as Caterpillar, and an uncontrollable congestion tax that will send jobs and businesses packing to regions that are making visionary investments in their growth and prosperity.

John Watson, who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Sonny Perdue, is a senior advisor to Citizens for Transportation Mobility.
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no more please
July 30, 2012
My dear Mr. Watson.....

Your using the former Governor Perdue as a

proponent of TSplost does not give the voters of Cobb County a FUZZY after two terms of the Governors land deals and other known ethics violations. You should not be so gullible to believe you can sell the Cobb voters on this disparate group of proposals that from my view out the window, won't help the traffic congestion downtown. Does the Grady curve sound familiar?

The only way you can relieve congestion is to build 6 more lanes of pavement and suspend them over the existing 6 lanes that we have already.

Do you think the Cobb voters will sit by while some overzealous polititians (mostly deluded types)vote for a Marta line to Cumberland Mall. I don't think so. Get all your buddies and return to the table and get the telephones out and call some of the fine upstanding Cobb citizens to help draw up a list of projects that will do the job of relieving traffic congestion. They know; they drive on those very roaads 6 days a week. They know!!!!!
July 14, 2012
--RE: John Watson, who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Sonny Perdue, is a senior advisor to Citizens for Transportation Mobility.--

Chief of staff to Sonny Perdue. Wee Doggie. You know if he was a advising the Gov. who made Georgia the fishing capital of the free world, he has got to be worth listening to.

Sonny was always real good about knowing just what property to buy before the gummint took actions that would make that property more valuable. A smart man that Sonny Perdue.
Stephen W
July 12, 2012
Since the projects listed won't help my commute or any normal driving at all I won't be voting for this. The project list seems like a terrible list of pet projects for people and nothing we could actually use. We are already getting the extra lanes along 75 that might actually help out some outside of this so it isn't like nothing ever gets done if we vote no on this.
Big Shanty Girl
July 12, 2012
We are being led down a primrose path and we need to let it be known that we're not going.
Three Jack
July 12, 2012
Thanks John Watson, special consultant to the group which refuses to disclose it's funding sources.

VOTE NO to TSPLOST then VOTE NO to all candidates who hire John Watson, Paul Benecke or any of the other faux conservatives leading the effort to pass the single largest tax increase in Georgia history.
JR in Mableton
July 12, 2012
Transportation is about economic development. In the past decade, the Atlanta region has LOST 2.8% of its jobs, and our property values have DROPPED 29%. We are ranked 189 out of 200 cities for economic growth. Look at what the airport has done for the region. Look at what the interstate system has done for the region. Look at what the county's SPLOST has done for economic growth in Cobb (we are the #2 job market in Georgia). Would you rather pay $125 per year for a decade or lose another 29% of the value in your home. That would be approximately $1,250 in "new" tax versus $30,000 is property value LOSS. Do the math!!
July 13, 2012
And spending $8.5 billion is going to magically correct these problems?

The last time I looked job loss and property value decreases were a nationwide, if not a worldwide, issue.

As far as the airport and the expressway systems are concerned they were the right projects at the right time.

This TSPLOST scam are the WRONG projects at the WRONG time.

Don't believe what the pro TSPLOST groups are claiming because it is all a bunch of advertising BS to trick naive voters into approving the creation of a taxpayer funded "honey bucket".

As for doing the math here are the REAL numbers:

Cost per person = $1,950; Two-person working family = $3,900.

“Congestion Tax “ as touted by the pro TSPLOST propaganda = $924 per person

True Tax with T-SPLOST = $1,950 per person

This is a per year figure, so when you extrapolate for the ten year the total TSPLOST tax for an individual is approximately $19,500; for a two person working family it is $39,000.
July 12, 2012
This is really offensive that this man thinks he can con us this way.

Sir you need to realize that there are two Americas. The one that works and the one that takes. I guess we can tell which side you are on.

Its a shame but no politician, no agenda, no nothing can be trusted in this country any longer. Government and its agents have lost all credibility.

Vote no to TSPLOST and show guys like this the working folks still run this town.
D.G. In Clarkdale
July 12, 2012
To Tom Watson,

If I agreed with you we’d both be wrong.
A Taxpayer
July 12, 2012
This guy must think we are so stupid. He says, "Listening to opponents, you’d think the July 31 vote the difference between no tax and a new tax." Then he says, "The $980 million will be raised through a one-penny sales levy." A "sales levy" IS a tax, John Watson. And I'm voting NO, NO, and NO again on TSPOLOST, Tim Lee and any more attempts by the wasteful government to stick its hands in my pockets when it can't even manage what I've given it so far.
Leaky Arguments
July 12, 2012
The gentleman's arguments are full of holes:

"untie our snarled traffic" - Not so! $700 million goes to transit; nothing to fix I-75 / I-285 interchange. Even ARC has stopped claiming TSPLOST will fix congestion.

"don't trust government" - And for good reason. See MARTA going broke and the GA 400 tolls that came back in a week.

"$924 a year in wasted fuel and lost time" - Calculated by no less than the biased TEXAS Transportation lobby... to lure jobs out of Atlanta.

"cost the average consumer an estimated $112 annually" - $112 is 1% of $11,200 annual purchases... now who can buy food, medical, clothes, house repairs, etc. for a year for $11,200? No way is this the figure for an "average" consumer.
Agree with Leaky
July 12, 2012
I just totaled up all our expenditures for the last month for our family of 6 (groceries, all utilities, non-contract cell phones, dining out, clothing, car parts, and anything else that was taxable). $4900 went out in that month. Some months are higher and some are lower but that is fairly average. An additional 1% on top of that will be an extra $49 each month or $588 per year.
July 12, 2012
More unsubstantiated propaganda aimed at influencing non-thinking, apathetic voters.

Three reasons the comments in the subject article should be viewed with a suspicious eye:

- Mr Watson previously worked as Chief of Staff for Sonny "Pass the Biscuits" Perdue. If that isn't a good reason to throw his comments out the window I don't know what is!!! He helped Sonny become one of the worst Governors in our states history and that even includes Jimmy "Peanut Brain" Carter.

- Mr Watson is senior advisor to the Citizens for Transportation Mobility. which is one of the This group of rabid pro TSPLOST special interest cronies have fabricated and disingenuously communicated, through a multi million dollar advertising campaign, the misinformation, propaganda and outright lies about what the TSPLOST will supposedly accomplish if approved.

- And then are the comments by Mr. Oberhelman CEO/Chairman of the Caterpillar Corp. His significant and obvious vested interest in see the TSPLOST approved should discount his comments to less than zero.

This guy (Mr. Watson) is an "in the bag" shill, so take his comments for what they are worth.

Restless in GA
July 12, 2012
With the transportation issues that we have in the area, this is the best alternative that we have to solving our needs. The plan set forth is a comprehensive plan that will include transit and road improvement projects to solve the critical needs of our city.
Cobb Watcher
July 12, 2012
More misinformation and we really already have

enough of that.
July 12, 2012
So if something doesn't affect you directly, you are not willing to pay an extra 1%?

With that attitude, our problems in this state and country will never be addressed. Of course, to you, anything outside of your bubble doesn't matter anyway.

Please move out of the way so the rest of us can get to work making our state and country a better place for everyone.

Ms Fitt
July 12, 2012
The extra 1% is an increase of 17% of our current

sales tax. Cobb County's current commission chairman is pushing for an additional sales tax

if he is reelected. Enough is enough!
West Cobb Taxpayer
July 12, 2012
Vote "NO" for TSPLOST!
ol' retired doc
July 12, 2012
And Tim Lee is promising he will push for another

"fair" sales tax if he is (please no no) reelected.
Oh, go on
July 12, 2012
Still voting "no".
It's rare that I
July 12, 2012
vote alongside tea partiers. However, I'm voting "no," not because I'm against a sales tax or unaware of a congestion tax, but because I'm not convinced that this TSPLOST's ever-shifting project list will actually relieve the traffic that's causing the congestion tax...

If the sales tax passes, and the traffic continues to exist; taxpayers will then be paying the annual $112 sales tax in addition to that $924 congestion tax. No, thank you.
Kennesaw Voter
July 12, 2012
BTW, of course "Douglas R. Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar" supports the TSPLOST...his complany sells the equipment that will be used to build all those Atlanta projects...

John Watson must take us for fools.

Vote NO on the TSPLOST as it is a joke on Cobb county.
Kennesaw Voter
July 12, 2012
OMG what a bunch of misinformation you are throwing at us....the TSPLOST project list is a big loser for Cobb County as it will not improve our traffic issues so voting yes will increase our taxes and we will still be sitting in traffic. Sling your nonsense some place else please.
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