READ THE OTHER SIDE: Approving T-SPLOST is best road to the future by Butch Miller
Georgia and especially Hall County has some transportation issues that need to be addressed. But the Transportation Investment Act (also called T-SPLOST) is wrong for Georgia. The most significant reason it is wrong is that it violates Georgia’s Home Rule provision in our constitution. This provision in our state constitution allows the citizens to overturn votes made by city councils and county commissions. However, there is no provision to overturn votes made by regional roundtables, thus the people are deprived one of our state constitutional rights.
This tax is being placed on items such as food and prescription drugs. but motor fuel is exempt. Motor fuel is the one item that is truly tied to transportation.
The Georgia Department of Transportation’s accounting is currently so flawed that both state and independent auditors have used words such as “scathing” to refer to GDOT’S financial statements. Former Gov. Sonny Perdue accused the department of “Enron accounting,” and we are supposed to give them the money from the largest tax increase in Georgia history?
Economic growth, employment and productivity are always negatively impacted by any tax increase or regulation. The worst thing Georgia can do is implement the largest tax increase in the history of the state at a time when we are in one of the worst economic downturns our country has ever experienced.
Wording in the actual amendment makes the state a benefactor of TIA funds. The reason is to allow the state to redirect funds. Normally state and federal funds are distributed throughout the state via a specific formula, but with the ability to redirect these funds, many counties that would have received federal or state funds will now have those funds “redirected.” But redirected where?
The power to determine which projects are implemented and when they will be implemented will remain with the director of DOT, not with the regions or the counties. The transportation department by law is the “contractor” for all projects. Do we really want to give more money to a bureaucracy that does not even know where money it currently receives is going?
The speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor select the five-person Citizen Review Committee to review programs in each region. This regional concept is placing unelected officials between the people and their money. There is no accountability to the people with the way TIA is written. This is taxation without representation.
This bill is an act of extortion in that the bill states that regions that do not pass it will see their state matching funds tripled, increasing from 10 percent to 30 percent.
This so-called penny sales tax increase from 7 percent to 8 percent amounts to a 14 percent increase in taxes (.08-.07/.07 = 14.29 percent). It’s not just a penny, as promoters want to call it.
State and local governments are failing the citizens via the SPLOST mechanism. Many projects are being approved and built with no thought of what it will cost to maintain these projects once completed. As the SPLOST projects continue, taxes inevitably must “roll up” to provide for maintenance for these projects.
If Georgia is going to implement sales tax, it should completely revamp its taxation and eliminate the income tax. To continue to burden taxpayers with both is dishonest. We have allowed our politicians to convince us to vote for SPLOST taxes under the guise that everybody pays, or that it will lower our property taxes.
Hall County shows a history of moving toward longer SPLOSTs. The first was for 30 months, second for 33 months, third for 60 months, forth for 60 months, fifth for 60 months. And now comes T-SPLOST for 120 months. This is an obvious pattern to making these taxes permanent.
One danger is our county commissioners may not want to wait until money has been collected. They may choose to issue bonds to jump start the process. This would cause additional cost to be passed to the citizens of Hall County. Our Hall County debt per person is currently increasing at an alarming rate. In 2004, the debt per person was $62.19, in 2010 it increased to $485.05 and only one year later, it jumped to $760.50.
The DOT website shows total cost and projected income from T-SPLOST. Hall County will have a shortfall of $77,449,308, fund that will need to come from other sources. Do you really think this tax is temporary?
No one that has seriously looked at the way this is being done will vote for this unconstitutional tax.
If we vote no on T-SPLOST, guess what? We will discover that mysteriously there is a Plan B out there. Our politicians just really wanted to see how gullible we the people really are.
Mike Scupin is local coordinator for the Lanier Tea Party Patriots.