Tonight the Alpharetta City Council is slated to vote on the list of projects to include on the transportation tax referendum next year. Proponents hope that a list of possible projects will entice voters into voting for higher taxes on themselves. You can see the list of projects on the city website here.
I also suggest you read this article about the transportation tax issue in today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution. The AJC article doesn’t do a very good job of summarizing the list being presented to Alpharetta City Council tonight but it does give a valuable overview of the process. Below are a few random thoughts on the transportation tax proposal:
1. I don’t trust the state of Georgia to live up to their end of the bargain. After the DOT and State Roadway and Toll Authority arbitrarily extended the GA 400 tolls I came up with a phrase to express my thoughts on the matter: “Once you vote to give the government your money they will do with it what they damn well please.”
2. Supporters of the tax increase include most of Georgia’s business and political establishment who try to portray the issue as just another penny for a great cause. It is important that taxpayers realize all those pennies add up to 8 Billion Dollars. That works out to about $3,300 the average family of four in Georgia will no longer have to buy gas, food or anything else they need.
3. Supporters of the plan point out that the tax is only authorized for ten years. Let’s be realistic, there isn’t a chance in hell that the tax will ever go away. If you doubt me look at what Cobb County did to push through the SPLOST tax extension.
4. The business and political establishment in metro Atlanta are determined to expand inefficient and expensive train service. One way they hope to achieve this goal is by rebranding MARTA as a shiny new regional transportation authority run by GRTA. Somehow they think that will make it more palatable to suburban taxpayers. This recent front page article in the Alpharetta Revue illustrates what I mean. While the article uses the transit authority in Chicago as an example it failed to also mention that census numbers show people are fleeing the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois is on the verge of bankruptcy and the Chicago Regional Transit Authority will cost taxpayers about 1.4 Billion Dollars this year.
5. Land development companies and speculators will reap billions of dollars in profits while shouldering none of the burden for the transportation improvements which increase their property values. That is why local Chambers of Commerce and Community Improvement Districts will invest millions of dollars to promote the new tax on consumers.
6. There is still no relief in the proposal for taxpayers in Fulton and Dekalb Counties who already pay a one cent transportation tax for MARTA that costs us about $350,000,000 a year. Last year North Fulton mayors threatened to withhold support for the proposed tax increase if it continued to unfairly punish their constituents but the resulting political backlash left them noticeably silent since then.
There is no doubt that the state of Georgia has neglected our road infrastructure as tax revenues boomed over the past few decades. I just think it is a horrible idea to make up for that mistake by raising taxes now that people are struggling with high unemployment, rampant inflation and declining property values. The state’s political and business community disagree.
It will be interesting to see what the people of Georgia decide when the issue reaches the ballot box.