Georgia faces a monumental choice today with the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) going to a referendum vote on the primary ballot. Republicans, Democrats, and non-partisans will all cast their votes, and those who vote for the tax will think that they are voting for 10 years of “economic development” and/or “congestion relief.” It is hard to say exactly which, because supporters of the tax don’t have a clear understanding of its effects, particularly its potentially detrimental economic effects.
The TSPLOST has driven a wedge through Georgia. Polling suggests that anywhere from 60% to 70% of Republicans oppose the TSPLOST, and the ramifications of that opposition have spread into other races, most noticeably the race for Cobb County chairman. The race has involved a lengthy debate between the current commission chairman, Tim Lee, who supports the tax, a former commission chairman, Bill Byrne, who opposes it, and two more challengers who also oppose the tax, Mike Boyce and Larry Savage. The possibility that Lee will be ousted from his position is substantial, and some polls even show Lee failing to make a runoff election. In large part, this change in popularity stems from his vocal support of the TSPLOST.
Personally, I voted against the TSPLOST. Here are my reasons why:
First, I don’t see any factual support that congestion will be reduced by pouring $8 billion into construction projects, and congestion should be a top priority to public transportation infrastructure projects.
Second, I don’t believe that the TSPLOST is the best road to economic development. The easiest way to build locally grown small businesses and to invite large corporate organizations is to reduce regulatory burdens, eliminate the state income tax, and improve education opportunities.
Third, the investments in public transit that the TSPLOST will make will only serve to institutionalize the tax in perpetuity. Atlanta does not have the density to ever make public transit a viable option, so we'll need to continue throwing money at the problem.
Finally, I moved to Georgia from Illinois just over 15 months ago, and the problematic policies I saw put in place there firmly convinced me that taxing does not solve issues, does not reduce budgetary constraints, and certainly doesn’t hold politicians accountable to solution-oriented leadership. Illinois is tanking fast, and I don’t want to see Georgia make the same mistakes.