Partisan bickering over Georgia’s transportation tax illustrates why it won’t solve anything

Jim Galloway points out in his Political Insider column for the AJC that the campaign to squeeze more money from Georgia’s taxpayers has hit another speedbump:

At the state Capitol, next year’s statewide round of regional sales tax votes is again in trouble.

At issue is legislation backed by Gov. Nathan Deal to shift the day of the vote from the July primary, when the electorate is likely to be overwhelmingly Republican, to the November general election.

Tea-party Republicans against the sales tax are opposed to changing the date, accusing supporters of trolling for voters churned out by President Barack Obama’s re-election bid. In a private session with Republican lawmakers from metro Atlanta, Deal this week quietly argued that presenting a tax initiative before the largest audience possible is in keeping with GOP principles, according to people who were in the room.

In addition to Deal’s backing, another good sign for supporters is that the legislation to change the date of the vote is sponsored by House Speaker pro tem Jan Jones of Alpharetta — the most powerful metro Atlanta lawmaker in the Legislature. So the Republican side of the transit sales tax vote may be close, but it’s likely to hold together.


Democrats in Fulton and DeKalb counties have supported next year’s transit sales tax vote — but only reluctantly, given that their voters have long been paying an extra penny sales tax to fund MARTA.

With tea party Republicans opposing the issue from the right, black lawmakers will be needed to make up the difference, if the date to shift the transit vote is to succeed.

State Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said his members are angry enough over the Senate map to lock down on the transit issue. “I think our caucus would be inclined not to cooperate,” Jones said.

It is sad to see such an important issue bogged down in partisan politics but it is completely predictable. Georgia’s transportation problem isn’t caused by a lack of money it is caused by an incompetent political class. As I wrote in this post last year:

The political class say they could fix the problem if they only had more money. What the political class doesn’t understand is that the voters don’t blame infrastructure needs on a lack of money, the voters place the blame on the political class. Taxes in Georgia are the 16th highest in all of the United States while transportation spending is 49th out 50. See the problem?

But Georgia’s political class won’t accept the fact that they have been the problem. Instead, the politicians and lobbyists  sat down together and once again hammered out an agreement acceptable to the politicans and lobbyists.  And once again their solution is to raise taxes… billions and billions of dollars in taxes. That solution must have sounded awfully good in their echo chamber because a few months ago the political class unveiled this genius idea to great fanfair and they patted themselves on the back so hard that Atlanta’s chiropractors must have made a fortune.

But the people that will pay for this enormous tax increase are not impressed, they are hurting. They face 10% unemployment while the other 90% are still unsure of the future. More than 12,000 Georgia homes were foreclosed in July. IRA accounts and home prices are going down while grocery and gasoline prices are going up. To make matters worse their federal income taxes are going up in a few weeks and they will have even less money to spend. Georgia voters are hurting and they find it offensive that political insiders have decided taxpayers need to pay billions of dollars more to fund transportation improvements. While transportation improvements might bring jobs to Georgia in a decade or so, the state’s taxpayers would have to cough up billions of dollars that could have gone to pay their mortgage or put food on the table in the meantime.

The tax increase being pushed to solve Georgia’s very real transportation problem won’t solve anything because lack of money isn’t the problem. Lack of effective leadership is.

Flying coach is for the little people

Kyle Wingfield of the AJC is fired up about Georgia politicians accepting free perks from Delta and he’s right to be disappointed. Can you imagine if Delta were the defendant in a trial and gave the judge free frequent flyer miles during pre-trial hearings? That would be absurd. So what is the difference? From the article:

The upgrades are properly understood as gifts — lobbying gifts — from a company seeking an extension of the partial exemption on sales tax for jet fuel it’s enjoyed since 2005. Delta got just that when HB 322 was passed this spring, saving the company tens of millions of dollars.

No wonder it passed: Besides Ralston, Delta contributed to Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal and House Transportation Chairman Jay Roberts, who sponsored HB 322. On the Senate side, it wasn’t only Cagle and Williams but Majority Leader Chip Rogers and Ronnie Chance, a floor leader for the Deal administration.


For some reason, this story got my goat more than the typical campaign-money revelation. Maybe it’s the obviously false pretext that these gifts were election-related.

More likely, it’s the reinforcement that our elected officials believe they deserve a cushier lifestyle than their constituents. Not because they can afford it, but just because they’ve been elected.

As Bob Irvin, former House minority leader and past chairman of Common Cause Georgia, told me, “This just ought to be stopped. It feeds the entitlement mentality of people in government. And while we’re fixing the entitlement problems for the country as a whole, we ought to be fixing it for government officials and staff, too.”

Every single day there are thousands of people in Georgia volunteering their time on behalf of their community. These people volunteer in soup kitchens, teach Sunday school classes, coach baseball or softball and donate time to the local PTA just to name a few. And not a single one of them expects to get free gifts worth thousands of dollars for their service to society. Yet for some reason many of our current political “public servants” seem to think their contribution is so singularly important that they should be entitled to special privileges.

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi dictated that the “little people” of the United States had to use low flow toilets and cfl light bulbs while she flew around on gigantic military aicraft stocked with enough booze to supply an entire Russian village for a year. Before Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested for raping a hotel maid, the head of the International Monetary Fund was staying in $3,000 a night hotel rooms while he redistributed wealth from the United States to people all over the world.

Membership in the ruling class does have its privileges.