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Last year, the Georgia legislature and governor enacted House Bill 277, the Transportation Investment Act of 2010. This bill places transportation responsibility in the hands of every Georgia government acronym imaginable GDOT, GMRDC, GRTA, ARC, MARTA as well as every county and municipal government. This is accomplished by the establishment of 12 special tax units.
What does it do? It opens the door for a new 1 percent special local option sales tax for us to accept or reject at the polls in July 2012. The TSPLOST differs from other SPLOSTs in that it will be collected for 10 years. Also, if the majority of the counties in your district vote for TSPLOST, your county must collect the tax from you even if your county voted no.
It gets worse. If your district votes no, then the local government must match 30 percent of state money for their local maintenance and improvement grant. But if your district votes in favor of the TSPLOST the match is only 10 percent. Through this strong-arm tactic, you are penalized for voting no.
HB277 establishes regional transportation roundtables in each district. From the roundtables an executive committee is created. The GDOT board establishes a statewide strategic plan and a director of planning to establish draft criteria for district's investment list. The draft list is not fiscally restrained.
HB277 also creates a five-member citizens review panel with three district citizens appointed by the Georgia House speaker and two district citizens appointed by the lieutenant governor. The trustee for tax revenue and projects will be the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission. Projects will be managed by GDOT or GRTA. Reporting will be by the Department of Revenue commissioner.
But wait, there's more. Also created is the Georgia Coordinating Committee for Rural and Human Services Transportation. This committee will study transportation services and make recommendations to the Office of Planning and Budget. And the committee will have an advisory subcommittee consisting of GDOT, DHS, DBH&DD, DCH, DOL, DCA commissioners, school superintendents and on and on.
If you are still with me, it is obvious the new TSPLOST will be needed just to cover the expense of the acronyms. All of the participants will generate secretarial and travel expenses, and since many officials are paid by the number of meetings they attend, meeting expenses. Much of the organization work is going on now, even before the tax is collected.
Most important, the new 1 percent tax will take sales tax levels to 8 percent and in some counties and municipalities 9 percent.
The legislature is now considering adding food to the state level of sales tax items. So, the most regressive of all taxes, the sales tax, would hit people with the lowest disposable income the hardest, taking another 1 percent and more if food is included.
I plan to speak against this monstrous piece of legislation at every opportunity, and in July 2012, vote no. I hope enough tax-weary Georgians vote with me to defeat a scheme that does nothing to solve transportation problems and is a staggering addition to an already bloated Georgia government.
Bruce W. Hallowell