So much has been said recently about the upcoming TSPLOST referendum that would raise sales taxes for 10 metro Atlanta counties under the guise of providing a "regional solution" to Atlanta's traffic congestion.
Obviously, everything we hear from the proponents of the TSPLOST is positive both in terms of its projects and its effects.
Not only are we supposed to believe that all of the metro area's economic problems are because of our "traffic congestion." Not only will this proposed $18 billion dollar solution solve all of our traffic problems; it will provide "thousands" of jobs, improve our performance in attracting companies to relocate to the area and otherwise foster a new spirit of cooperation around the region.
I can only think of one word that would sum up my thoughts on the TSPLOST and the positions of its proponents: baloney!
There are many reasons why I oppose TSPLOST. Actually, there are many more. But, I'll try to focus on three main reasons why I oppose it and why I think you should, too.
The first is trust. I'm always suspicious of any tax referendum placed on anything but the general election ballot. After all, if all of us are going to have to pay this tax, shouldn't all of us be able to vote on the matter?
Oh sure, we could all go to the polls on July 31 for the state primary election. But everyone knows that the turnout for the state primary is merely a fraction of that for the general election.
Further, we know there will be a huge turnout for the general election, especially for those opposing the "tax and spend" mentality that pervades Washington D.C. these days. What would be the chances of a tax increase passing then? Right. Almost zero!
For those of us in Cobb County, it's a 50/50 deal on whether we can trust our political leadership to do the right thing. We were told this past year that if we did not pass their proposed SPLOST vote that property taxes would have to be raised.
Guess what? That's right. Property taxes were raised almost immediately after the SPLOST passed. Coincidence? Maybe. Appearance?
Commission Chairman Tim Lee played Cobb County voters like a fiddle. In my mind, that was contemptible. And within literally weeks, we're told Cobb Countians should again belly up to the bar and incur even more taxes to essentially expand MARTA's failed system into Cobb County, well at least to Cumberland Mall.
And speaking of trust. Do you really think anticipated contributions from the federal and state government will materialize as promised? If you do, I've got a warehouse full of Chattahoochee Spring Water to sell you.
The federal deficit is currently over $1 trillion and the federal debt over $15 trillion! They'll be cutting revenue-sharing projects like crazy. And, of course, state budgets are being strained as a result.
It seems like we're being asked to put a whole lot of trust in an unelected centralized government agency over which we will have absolutely no control. That just makes no sense.
Second, it's regional! Cobb Countians are being asked to contribute over $1 billion to an effort that will be spent primarily on making capital improvements to MARTA and other boondoggles in the city of Atlanta. Oh, I know we're being told that the majority of Cobb's contribution will be on bus transit from Acworth to Midtown Atlanta.
What we're not told is that Plan B can replace Plan A at any time and that the study on Plan B (the rail line from Cumberland Mall to Midtown Atlanta) won't be completed until after the TSPLOST vote has passed. Hmmm, I guess that goes back to the TRUST issue, too.
Imagine what Cobb County could do with an additional $1 billion over the next 10 years. Talk about economic development! We could give Cobb Countians a break by lowering property taxes! Lower property taxes are a major attraction for companies looking to invest in a community.
We could try to stabilize the Cobb County School District. You know, the one that has had a hard time balancing (even coming up with) their budget, causing morale and performance problems throughout most of the system. A $100 million a year spent on education in Cobb County might help develop programs for schools in the southern part of the county.
And how about our own infrastructure needs like sewer, water, waste disposal, public safety, etc.?
And what effect would passing this TSPLOST mean to future SPLOST measures Cobb County (and others for that matter) might want to consider going forward? The Cobb Board of Commissioners and Board of Education already have a severe credibility problem. What's going to happen when we actually need money for real needs in Cobb County?
The best way to boost the metro area's economy and economic development potential is for each community to create the best living and business environment possible while recognizing the benefits of being part of the metro area.
Third, it just doesn't make sense. The supporters of TSPLOST assume all roads lead to Atlanta and that that area ITP (Inside The Perimeter) is the job creation center of all of North Georgia, especially the metro area.
The Atlanta region is more an accumulation of EXurbs with their own centers of commerce and culture. People move to those areas and choose to drive their cars on purpose. They prefer the quality of life away from Atlanta's overcrowded, crime-filled streets.
To force urbanization and mass transit (especially heavy rail) is the height of arrogance of the region's "central planners." Those counties that wish to "connect" with MARTA and provide mass transit alternatives to Atlanta should be free to do so in a way that minimizes costs and maximizes effectiveness. Each community really does know what is best for itself.
Finally, if the regional brain trust that devised this monstrosity really wanted to foster regional cooperation in a way that was conducive to economic development, they'd find a way to make our real economic development engine (Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport) more effective.
A second airport for commuter traffic would do much more for regional cooperation and economic development than this TSPLOST boondoogle.
Need I remind you to vote NO on TIA or TSPLOST on July 31.