The news for the Georgia Transportation Tax does not look good. Polls are predicting its quick defeat in 2012. Being a transportation professional and a fiscal conservative puts me in a conundrum. I am not normally a proponent of a tax increase, but our transportation needs are dire and threaten our state;s economic engine if not adequately addressed.
I keep thinking about how local efforts to self-impose a small mil increase on property tax for schools in my former home of Huntsville, Alabama and the county it resides – Madison, went down in flames several times while I lived there. This was a tax increase for the average homeowner at the time of $100 a year, or as the ads said, the cost of a small pack of gum a day.
Now schools, along with transit, are two of the most supposedly ‘politically correct’ things to get behind politically. If school and transit taxes have trouble passing then I suppose just about any tax will. Why do you suppose this is the case?
I would have to suggest the issue is accountability and trustworthiness. The public may perceive the need for funding increases and still vote ‘no’ because they do not trust the people to spend the money wisely or as they said they would spend it.
Back to the transportation tax. One of my concerns is that a whole cent is a lot of money really. I have to wonder if a half cent might have had a better chance of passing. yes the list of projects would be half the size but the way it looks now there will not be any. Now a half-cent tax may also fail, but one has to wonder.
Another concern that the people have is that it is too heavy transit funding. This goes back to what is politically correct. In this case, the argument is usually ‘its for the poor, ‘ but the routes being suggested really fit the mantra of ’it’s for the environment’ or ‘we’re going to get suburbanites to ride MARTA if it kills us.’
How can the tax pass. I see only one way – the cities and counties must get behind it and promote locally. For them to be willing to do thjat, the projects list needs o be scrubbed down to include true needs. Maybe everything looks like a true need when you are sitting on GA 400 or 285 or 75 or 85, etc… This projects list must be shown to bet the most benefit for the least buck and help the most different municipalities. I personally think it needs to address highways more and transit less than the current ratio suggests. Does that mean I hate transit? “No!” However Atlanta just does not have the density needed to make transit viable or even close to being self-sufficient. Like it or not, Atlanta is a car community and if the congested highway issue is not addressed the transit issue will be moot.