Georgia's T-SPLOST (Transporation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) failed to pass in the metro Atlanta area, and throughout 10 other counties in Georgia. This was a major victory for the Tea Party and shows that theyare here to stay on the political scene. This, of course, has national implications because the Tea Party was an overriding force in the 2010 midterm elections. What can the Georgia T-SPLOST vote tell us about what is to come in November?
The failed T-SPLOST tells us a couple of things. One of the biggest arguments against the T-SPLOST by the Tea Party was that we cannot trust the government with more of our money. They said that the government has enough of our money and that they don't need anymore. Basically, no more taxes. OK, we've heard that before, but this bill had specific project lists with specific time frames in mind for each individual project laid out. On top of that, the people in each locality handpicked which projects they wanted and didn't put on their list projects they didn't want. The projects are one of the main reasons other Republicans in the state, like Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, supported the measure. It was truly a bottom-up proposal designed by the citizens of the region and not a bunch of bureaucrats.
So it appears the tax argument is king. No more new taxes! Not so fast!
The taxation argument did play heavily here in Atlanta, but it was not the reason why this bill failed. The T-SPLOST failed because people on both the right and the left would rather make sure that the other side doesn't get what they want instead of compromising to get to a win-win situation.
One of the odd things that happened to make the T-SPLOST vote on Tuesday possible was that the Georgia legislature had to change the law to allow the grouping together of counties to all vote together on one referendum on a win or lose basis. Previously, SPLOST's have been common in Georgia, but only for individual counties. One of the last things Governor Sonny Perdue did while he was in office was to change the law to allow for regional votes.
The problem is that the metro Atlanta area is comprised of very different demographics. The north is heavily Republican, while the south is heavily Democrat. Each individual county and city had a piece of the pie in this referendum and their own project lists, which they chose. That was the problem. People in the south chose to add a lot of transit projects to their lists because they believe that transit is something this city needs more of, while the people in the north vehemently disagree that so much of the money should be spent on transit.
Nevermind that each locality chose their own list. When the final lists were published, the Tea Party crowd (mostly in the north) came out in full force because the was too much about transit. They said that it should be all road work and that transit should be separate from the bill entirely. The Tea Party scuttled the T-SPLOST bill because they didn't want the Democrats to get what they wanted out of the bill. Yes, taxes were part of it, but the T-SPLOST died less because of taxes and more because of how some people would rather stop the other side from winning anything, while at the same time losing themselves. This is extremely troubling to me.
The division in this country has gotten to the point to where people would rather scuttle a compromise bill where both sides win because they don't want the other side to win at all. The only way out of this is through leadership. We need leaders to take us out of the morass we're in and lead us to a place where compromise is no longer a dirty word. I hope Gov. Deal becomes that leader for Georgia. Deal has already said he is going to act on T-SPLOST Plan B as soon as possible. The funny part about Deal's Plan B is that the people won't get to vote on it like they did in the T-SPLOST bill.
Something similar must happen in Washington, too. We need leaders that are willing to bring together both sides and make big things happen where both sides can say they won. Compromise cannot be a dirty word in Washington! Unfortunately, right now for many it is.