Among legislators who voted in favor of the TSPLOST referendum, it could be called an epidemic of “I voted for it before I voted against it.” State Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), majority leader in the Senate and a key member of the GOP political power structure, went to extra lengths to emphasize his previously stated opposition to the tax plan by holding a news conference flanked by members of the anti-TSPLOST Transportation Leadership Coalition last Monday.
“I strongly urge the people of Georgia to exercise their right to vote down what would be the largest tax increase in our state’s history,” Rogers said. That runs counter to his support in the legislature for submitting the tax to the voters and puts him in direct opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal and other Republican heavyweights who pushed the tax proposal through the General Assembly.
Likewise state Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), one of Deal’s floor leaders and now a candidate for Congress in the newly created 14th District, is running away from the tax plan. He voted to put the tax on the ballot, a spokeswoman said, “because he thinks voters ought to decide whether they want to tax themselves.” But he plans to vote against the TSPLOST because he does not like the project list in his area. Ditto for various other GOP incumbent candidates and challengers.
In Carroll County at a candidate forum last week, all eight of the candidates for Board of Commissioner seats declared their opposition to the TSPLOST. In Cherokee County, Rogers’ base, commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens and state Rep. Sean Jerguson (R-Holly Springs) who were representatives on the TSPLOST regional roundtable that decided on the projects, reversed course recently and came out against the plan. And the list goes on.
Rogers said he opposes the TSPLOST because most of the money wouldn’t help solve traffic congestion in the metropolitan area and projects such as the Atlanta Beltline and MARTA expansion would saddle taxpayers with huge maintenance and operations costs long after the 10-year tax ends.
If the tax should pass, “we’re telling the next generation of taxpayers they will also have to fund this because you’re not going to shut down the mass transit system, you’re not going to stop the trains, you’re not going to quit construction on the projects in the middle of the projects,” Rogers said. Another key point by the Senate majority leader: The TSPLOST should be more about improving roads and less about mass transit which would consume more than half the projects.
It should be noted that Rogers’ strong vocal opposition coincides with the first Republican primary challenge for his Senate seat in 10 years. But regardless of whether his stance is a political survival tactic or true conviction, what he says is on target and reflects the widespread sentiment among Republicans, especially those running for office.
It’s not only the politicians becoming allergic to the TSPLOST package of goodies: A recent poll showed 61 percent of Republicans opposed to the tax plan. The bottom line, as Rogers pointed out, is that if the voters reject the current proposal, the General Assembly can come up with a better plan and authorize another referendum in two years.