“We have to get our people and goods moving again,” Deal said at Tuesday’s Eggs and Issues breakfast sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, a friendly audience for his transportation and business-tax-cut agenda.
“Georgia can either go forward with this wise investment or our transportation system will be stuck in the past while we’re stuck in traffic.”
Unfortunately, the proposed TSPLOST deal for Cobb County would not do much to get the traffic unstuck. The tax would raise an estimated $6.1 billion in the 10-county metro Atlanta region including Cobb which would get $689 million for “enhanced premium transit service,” not otherwise identified, plus money for road improvements and a new tower and runway lights at McCollum Airport among other things.
A half-dozen members of the Cobb legislative delegation visited the Journal last week and offered their views on spending the tax money and re-engineering the state law setting up the tax vote. Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) talked about changing the Cobb project list to build toll lanes on I-75 and I-575, a surprising suggestion considering the opposition the “Lexus lanes” have encountered in Gwinnett County.
Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) hit the nail on the head when he said the project list is a “bait and switch” deal. And Rep.Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said attempts might be made in the legislature to allow counties to opt out of referendums. Some Cobb legislators also expect the tax plan to be challenged on constitutional grounds.
There are flaws in the Transportation Investment Act (TIA), the formal name of what has come to be known as TSPLOST, meaning transportation-special local option sales tax. The Georgia Taxpayers Alliance has rightly pointed out that a tax proposal of such size “demands absolute clarity and strict enforcement provisions for every word, every paragraph and every jot and dash to ensure that all promised projects are delivered.”
However, “enforcement does not exist,” James Bell of the taxpayer group wrote last month. “Nothing in the law prevents GDOT or other agencies from moving money from one project to another within a district, especially if any future study shows it is infeasible to build a particular project.
“The logical thing would have been to do studies before creating a project list. Yet, in this fine example of government foresight and planning, only after the tax is passed will feasibility studies be done. Only then will we know if projects are viable and should be built, but by then the politicians will have our money, if we vote for this tax. If the studies deem any project as infeasible, will it still be funded?”
Good question. It needs to be answered and other flaws in the law must be addressed in this session of the General Assembly.