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Vote for TSPLOST? Not a Chance

Does anybody think the Georgia Department of Transportation deserves one cent of sales tax money? I don't. Here's why

The mid summer elections are coming up, and the weather isn't the only thing that's HOT this July.

T-SPLOST, or the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, is one issue that has a lot of people fired up this election cycle. With good reason, too...In case you haven't noticed, traffic around here is a mess.

Highway 20 in Grayson is a frustrating commute during rush hour, despite the recent ba-jillion dollar widening project. Loganville Chic-fil-A hires an off-duty policeman each day, just so it's customers can make a right turn on 78. That pretty much sums up the traffic situation in the 'Ville. The further west you go, the worse the situation gets.

There's literally no way around this fact: Atlanta traffic sucks. Expert studies invariably come to the conclusion that there are too many cars on the road at the same time. Really now? No kidding. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Here, have some tax money for your effort!

So now the State DOT wants to fix the problem. Again. Just like they've been "fixing" it for over a decade now, namely to plan expensive projects with minimal impact on traffic patterns. And they are asking you for more of your money to do it.

Let's look at a couple of those brilliant ideas of yore, shall we? Let's start with the Georgia 400 toll booths.

In 1991, The road extension into Buckhead was proposed but the toll suggested to pay for it was unpopular. Politicians "promised" that once the bonds expired in 2011, the toll would be lifted. Opponents remained skeptical, but the decision to build the tollway passed. They Promised!

Well...of course one generation's promise means little to the next. So few people were surprised when, in one of his last decisions in office, lame duck Gov. Sonny Perdue quietly extended the tolls for another ten years in late 2010. The long expected broken promise came to pass.

Then there are the I-85 H.O.T. Lanes. In my opinion, this has got to be one of the dumbest and ill-conceived attempts to alleviate traffic, in the history of ever. In fact, let's just call them that from now on: D.U.M.B. Lanes. I'll come up with words for the acronym later.

So let me see if I have this right. In order to free up traffic, you take an existing H.O.V. lane, restrict it to people who have a special pass and make them pay an ever-adjusting fee. Just for fun, add some super-confusing signage! Genius! How could this not work??!!

The biggest problem with the D.U.M.B. Lanes is also the most ironic...The less people who pay the toll, the greater the benefit to those who do.  That's right, folks...the D.U.M.B. Lanes only work when all the other lanes are clogged up! Those losers stuck in the loser lanes can either get with the program or deal with it.

Or they can vote to give the DOT even MORE of their tax money so they can fund even MORE brilliant ideas!

I don't think so. I've read what they plan to do with that money.

Metro Atlanta Region 3, which includes Gwinnett, would get the lion's share.  Meanwhile, Region 5 (Walton and points east towards Athens) stands to see improvements on major corridors like Ga. 316. Much of the monies collected would be distributed to the local governments for use on local roadways. They say. They PROMISE!

They Promise. Again. It's gonna be great this time! You'll see!

Frankly, I don't care what they promise. Promises mean nothing from a government agency with a sordid history of breaking them and making such D.U.M.B. decisions even when they aren't making back room deals. They might as well promise free rides to work on a magic unicorn, for all their promises are worth. 

What the debacle of the Toll Road and the D.U.M.B. Lanes has taught me is that the State's policymakers simply are not listening to you and I on how to spend out tax money. Well, I hope they hear us in July. I will be pressing the NO button as loudly as I can this summer and I suggest you do the same.

Sharon Swanepoel June 10, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Ahh Mark. Now that's a comment I can get behind. Being a Fair Tax person, I can't discount T-SPLOST as not being the better way to go. But I agree now is not the time. Government has to earn back some trust and show it can get its own financial house in order before anyone can be comfortable giving it any more. I like the whole TSPLOST idea, see the need for it, but I find it difficult to find that trust.
Kristi Reed (Editor) June 10, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Jeff's example of Highway 20 in Loganville is very pertinent to this discussion. The traffic issues that cause most of us the most headaches are not on the TSPLOST list and the vast majority will likely not even be addressed through the paltry cut of the TSPLOST proceeds that will go to local governments should the tax pass. Also, if they are ever addressed, it might be 10 years or more down the road. Here in Dacula (incorporated and unincorporated), we have several places, just like the Chick-fil-A in Loganville, where off-duty police officers are hired to work traffic during peak times. Unfortunately, there are several bad intersections where there is no help to be had and there is nothing TSPLOST will do to change that. To Dave's very accurate comment -- having more choices of more rail lines not to ride does not help me get to the grocery store or to Dacula City Hall or to the Mall of Georgia. Simple things like adding turn lanes and changing the timing of certain traffic lights could do wonders for a lot of our problems, but you won't find those solutions on the TSPLOST project list. As for the bait and switch that is, as Jeff so aptly called it, the D.U.M.B. lanes -- why would I trust the people who thought up that idea with more of my money?
Kristi Reed (Editor) June 10, 2012 at 09:22 PM
D.U.M.B. - Dreamed Up by Mindless Bureaucrats?
Sharon Swanepoel June 10, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Ding, ding, ding - we have a winner! Kristi got it!!!
Kathy June 10, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Please get the facts before you make up your mind. Most if the info above will not help the state of ga. Our state has enjoyed some of the best roads in the nation for several years and now we are being thrown backwards because of bad information being circulated around. We have one of the -if not the lowest -gas taxes nationwide. And your mind DOT has been able to work with these low numbers to give you smooth and well maintained roads. However this is changing. The low amount of money is even lower due to tax revenues now coming in. We must find other ways to maintain our roads and keep businesses wanting to come our way. Please research this vote to the fullest and make an informed decision.decision
Al Rinzel June 11, 2012 at 12:48 AM
The T-SPOST proposal will end it's first ten years with up to 57% of the tax collection spent on high speed rail and other public transportation that only 5% of commuters use. We will then have more public transportation infrastructure that will either stop running or depend on more tax money simply to keep it in operation. The DOT and their supporters will then claim that they need the tax extended to make the highway improvements that they could not do with the money they've collected in the first ten years. Once the tax is there it will NEVER, NEVER end and neither will the highway tie-ups. What is really needed is for locals to have more say on improvements that are needed in feeder and secondary roads to take pressure off the freeway system.
Chas June 11, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Simply put, that one little penny tax for Tsplost really is a 17 percent tax increase. Vote NO!
Jimmy Orr June 11, 2012 at 04:12 AM
TIA-M-001 to TIA-M-014 State of Good Repair and Station Enhancements (Consolodiated) are MARTA projects on the TSPLOST constrained projects list to the tune of $600,000,000. million dollars. Among the station enhancements are upgrades to existing escalators in existing rail stations. One would think that the maintenance and upgrades to escalators would have been budgeted in the ongong O & M costs in MARTA's budget from day one. In the course of one month I will have traveled on most of the interstate network in Metro Atlanta. I have yet to see anyone commuting to and from work on an escalator. VOTE NO!
Angelo A. Magistro June 11, 2012 at 06:18 AM
Angelo It is 1% not one cent, a big difference. Ten year limit? Like 400 toll. How does DOT (feds).disburse the ($.45?) gas tax. Supposedly to be used for road improvements. Look at Rockdales half a miilon dollar rock pile for road improvement Wish list? NO!
Jeffrey Allen June 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Good News, Kristi! You win. Your acronym is as brilliant as it is apt. The bad news? The prize is a Peach Pass application. It's the gift that keeps on giving
Jeffrey Allen June 11, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Had I included everything that is wrong with this Transportation bill in this column, I'dve wound up penning a series of epic novel instead! I'm way over my 500 word limit as it is... Still, your point is extremely valid. Volume 12 of that eopic novel would have been all about MARTA not being smarta
Jeffrey Allen June 11, 2012 at 12:52 PM
The government has been wasting tax dollars on silly projects for years. As Mike points out here, when tax dollars go for a ride, the ride just never seems to end. "The City of New Orleans" makes a much better song than it does a taxpayer funded transportation program. Maybe we should write a little ditty about the Toll Booths on 400?
Jeffrey Allen June 11, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Good point. If you're going to bilk the taxpayers out of more money you should at least consider projects to actually correct the problem.
Jeffrey Allen June 11, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Kathy, The problem isn't so much with the project list...Well, some of it is but my beef is mostly the trust factor. Doesn't matter what you say when nobody trusts you to keep their word. I read the list of proposed projects, but that's not the point...point is, this agency is a poor steward of tax money. How much $$$ went into funding I-85 D.U.M.B. lanes? Can anyone say with a straight face that the traffic situation has improved on that interstate? Seriously? If the great minds that brought us the D.U.M.B. lanes really think anyone wants to reach in their pockets everytime they go to Wal-Mort for the next ten years, they have another thing coming. They might as well be proposing a pixie-dust lane for flying carpets around the peremeter for all the votes they'll garner on the northeastern metro areas...
Jeffrey Allen June 11, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I read a proponent of this tax say something like "It's only a penny, what's the big deal?" Here's the big deal with that... It is "just a penny"...a penny added to literally every dollar you spend in the state of Georgia. For the next ten years. How much do you spend, just on groceries? That will add up to several hundred dollars a year for the average family, just on food and basic "Wal-Mart" stuff. Over ten years, that's well over a thousand bucks...all to bring you more projects like the D.U.M.B. lanes and neverending tolls. Here's something else to think about: We in Metro Atlanta are "penny taxing" ourselves to death. Here in Walton County, voters (not this guy) gladly handed county and school board officials each their very own 1% sales tax each. This, in spite of having no choice but to fund the unpaid bonds on a previous 1% sales tax that the projects funded exceeded the actual tax collected. We'll be paying down that bond out of the general budget for the forseeable future. So...We're still paying what amounts to 1% on an EXPIRED sales tax. We just voted ourselves an additional 2% worth of sales taxes. Now the state is trying to hit us up for another 1%. Friends, that's not a penny tax anymore. We're approaching a nickel now. Four cents out of every dollar you spend. Think about that. Vote No.
Jeffrey Allen June 11, 2012 at 02:33 PM
This is on top of the 4% state sales tax that is already imposed. That's means it will cost you 8 cents to spend a dollar in Walton County. Now we're approaching a dime. Vote. NO
Joe_Harris June 11, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Although there is great mistrust in the government regarding how money is spent now is not the time to just ignore the issue. Traffic in Atlanta is horrendous. With the Regional Transportation Referendum vote there will be various accountability measures set up at each step to ensure that everything is getting done. If the funds are raised before 10 years the sales levy will drop. If we want to stay on par with major cities similar to Atlanta then it is about time we improve our current transportation system.
Jeff Young June 11, 2012 at 07:15 PM
"If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute." ~Thomas Paine (Just say "NO!" to new taxes!)
Jeffrey Allen June 11, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Joe, No one disputes the need for a traffic fix. But an educated voter has to look at the record of how this agency has "fixed" traffic woes in the past. Look no further than last year, when the DOTs latest big-ticket "fix" was placed in service. Yes I'm talking about the D.U.M.B lanes. The fix isn't supposed to make the situation worse. Thus did. Doesn't take away from the fact improvements are needed. if you need a new car, buying a rusted jalopy that doesn't run won't fix your problem. It makes it worse, and now you're out of money. Vote NO
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew June 12, 2012 at 04:42 AM
"there WILL BE various accountability measures set up" "If the funds are raised before 10 years the sales levy will drop." SO .. what happens if the forecasted amount is NOT raised? Or the FEDS don't come though with the shared funds being included for projects during the period? We need a better solution - don't vote yes because we need to do "SOMETHING". Vote NO so we can get the solution RIGHT!
Grant June 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM
NO... No ...and no.. I cant fathom the sort of folks that thing handing the government MORE of our money to waste is somehow a good idea..
David Brown June 12, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I am among the Gwinnett residents who ride MARTA. I drive from Snellville to the Indian Creek Station each morning and take the rail to my office in midtown Atlanta. To me, ITSMARTA and reduces my expenditures for gas and maintenance on my car.
Mikey June 13, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Don't forget about the "incentive" that they have added to this bill. If we don't vote yes, they take away 30% of the matching state funds that we get now. Something is wrong when the government punishes you for not voting how they want you to vote. What if the next President doen't get the vote from the State of Georgia. Can he decided that we should get any federal funds anymore? Wrong just wrong. I'm voting NO!
Michael July 17, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Follow the money.Vote NO!! http://i1183.photobucket.com/albums/x469/elevatorman2/ER%20Snell/IMG_20120707_181431.jpg
Finch July 19, 2012 at 02:12 AM
I don't have any confidence in the "accountability" measures. WHo controls them, who measures? It's more of the same - tell us anything to get our votes, then laugh all the way to the proverbial bank. The truth is that you cannot improve the traffic in the City of Atlanta because they can't expand the roads. Many of the building in Atlanta are historcial so they can't be torn down. When a City decides to take away two lanes on Peachtree Street to put a toy trolly car, thus backing up their traffic even more, they will not get my vote. It's as if they haven't really looked at solving the problem of traffic congestion but rather looked around the couontry at other transit systems and decided they wanted some of that, too. Just because a trolley may work in San Francisco doesn't mean it will work on our cramped streets. Just because buses work in Chicago doesn't mean they will work in our suburbs. There should be a contest to see who can come up with the best design, award them a couple million dollars and your studies will be done. Then let the voters vote on the solution.
Susan July 28, 2012 at 12:38 PM
And let us not forget when they took the right lane away from 85 south and gave it to Ga. 400 and claimed it would only cost us an extra 3 minutes! They can't even handle simple things like re-timming the lights! I wish that I had a camera yesterday while driving on 14th street towards W. Peachtree. Traffic was so bad in front of my building that I couldn't get across to turn left on 10th. I had to turn right on 10th and go around the block. 14th was also backed up. While sitting there, I watched as the light in front of me would turn green while the light on the next block remained red. You don't have to be too smart to figure out that this is not going to work. Really people? If you can't figure that out, why would we give you more money?! This is common all over Georgia. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to get from 10th street to 85 north. Why? Because we have to stop at every light. D.U.M.B. My answer is NO!
Jimmy Orr July 28, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Susan, please keep on "shucking the corn" between now and 7 PM Tuesday, July 31, 2012. Folks, if you have not voted by early voting or at one of the satellite locations this past week, please go to your precinct on Tuesday, July 13st. between 7 AM and 7 PM and vote NO to the TSPLOST boondoggle keeping in mind that TSPLOST would be a financial albatross around the necks of "We the People" aka taxpayers.
Finch July 28, 2012 at 02:42 PM
You know the TSPLOST pushers are desperate when they raise Ronnie Reagan from the dead to give us advice AND - the Republicans are telling us that tax increases will create jobs. Remember that in November folks - The Republicans want to raise our taxes because it will create jobs.
Finch July 29, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Final point on TSPLOST - People move to this area for the suburban lifestyle - not because of the City of Atlanta. We like living beyond the reach of the Atlanta politicans. Many elected officals and the newspaper, the AJC, continue to miss that point. We don't go the City for shopping or even entertainment. If we must go to Atlanta, it's for work, then we get the hell out as soon as the sun goes down. We have better entertainment venues in the "burbs" at less costs and with a higher sense of securty and safety. The Atlanta big wigs and the newspaper are pushing a past vision that no longer exists. Altanta is not the City of the Olympic glory days nor will it return to become the "Capitol of the South." If they had wanted to fix their traffic problems, they could have fixed it during the 1996 Olypmics and they elected not to widen the streets or provide alternative roadways to get around Atlanta.
Finch July 29, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Do people in Gwinnett or Cobb really want to fund the resortation of 18 MARTA projects? Not really. We will continue to move beyond the reach of a beggar city that cannot manage its finances, it's schools and its own transportation problems. It won't be long before Altanta over-reaches and declares that the Metro region now goes to the South Carolina border in order to collect more revenue.The rest of us don't want to fund their projects and do not, let me repeat - DO NOT, want to be considered part of Atlanta. Period. It's a has-been city with failed policies that now demands the rest of us fix with our tax dollars. NO.

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