Georgia Trend Propagandizes for T-SPLOST

When did state tax policy become a plaything for companies, instead of a source of services for taxpayers? There’s a lot of fudging in the T-SPLOST article in the current Georgia Trend. I guess that’s not surprising when it’s mostly about the viewpoint of the CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Ben Young wrote for Georgia Trend June 2012, Transportation Game Changer: July’s statewide referendum will determine Georgia’s economic future. There’s a lot at stake for all 12 regions.

“The reason our port is the fastest growing is because our road and rail network is so efficient,” says Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic De-velopment, another top RTR advocate. “If Zell Miller and other former administrations hadn’t done something to make the port more of a growth engine, we would now have little to no success in advanced manufacturing.”

Yet the rest of the article is all about roads, with little or nothing about rail, except for metro Atlanta and Charlotte as a comparison. Where are the rail projects linking Valdosta to Atlanta and Savannah, or the Valdosta MSA commuter rail or bus system? Nowhere in T-SPLOST.

It is also unclear how Georgia can sustain growth in logistics-related sectors that depend on moving goods quickly and efficiently — sectors believed to be leading us out of the recession — without strengthening the highway network, which has suffered due to lower gas tax revenues. Without an additional tax, there is no way to keep up what we have, much less build anything new, proponents say.

Um, then maybe the governor shouldn’t have refused to extend Georgia’s gas tax by 8/10 cent (almost as much as proposed the 1 cent T-SPLOST tax, but on gasoline, not on everything including food). And note “believed to be” and “proponents say”. Later in the same article:

People are desperate for more transportation funding and the improvements it will bring, but the referendum itself is complex.

Who are these unnamed “people”? The same “proponents” by whom things are “believed to be”? Isn’t it wonderful to base tax policy on hearsay?

If Georgia was serious about creating jobs to lead us out of the recession and into a national and world leader, Georgia legislators would be fixing state laws that inhibit solar power and they wouldn’t be authorizing stealth taxes on Georgia Power customers in the guise of increased bills to fund the Plant Vogtle nuclear boondoggle.

Most local leaders who had a hand in the two-year process of crafting the lists for their communities have a vested interest in promoting it; the process eliminated a lot of controversy by allowing citizen input and discussion through local town hall meetings and roundtables.

Ah, no, that’s not how it worked around here, where the T-SPLOST hearing in Valdosta last September saw many citizens, including some of the very local leaders charged with crafting the project lists, speaking in opposition.

The article does get around to mentioning some T-SPLOST opposition in Fayette County, and this:

Other referendum foes, from Dalton to Valdosta, are opposed to any new taxes. However, beyond the Fayette County Board of Commissioners’ unanimous disapproval, there seems to be little in the way of an organized effort to defeat the RTR.

Some of us who oppose T-SPLOST actively campaigned for the recent ESPLOST. Sure, that’s not a new tax. But several of us, including Democratic me and even one of the local Tea Party leaders, have proposed a gasoline tax to pay for transportation projects. As for organized efforts, apparently Georgia Trend hasn’t been watching T-SPLOST District 11 very closely.

“We went 20,000 miles in every corner of the state hearing about issues, and behind better education, transportation infrastructure was what they wanted,” says Clark. “What we heard is that we’ve fallen behind in investment, and we have to move forward. We get less and less from the federal government [gas tax] because of fuel efficiency, and we’re already at the bottom in the country [48th] for local investment.”

Well, maybe this “proponent” is one of the “people” who are the source of all the hearsay on which the article wants us to base tax policy. Once again, the biggest reason we have less gasoline tax revenue right now in Georgia is that Governor Deal wouldn’t allow an automatic gasoline tax increase. And if this is a statewide problem, why is it being fobbed off on “local” investment?

Here’s another clue:

“Even business groups that oppose more taxes know it’s something their communities have to do,” says Clark. “I haven’t been to any region in the state where chambers and economic developers aren’t supporting it or at least educating people on it. There’s no other group besides businesses that are going to push this through.”

So if it’s businesses that want this, why aren’t they proposing a business tax?

I could continue poking holes in this article, but let’s cut to the chase.

For Georgia to sustain its competitive advantage, every region needs to pass its RTR, according to Savannah’s Page Siplon, Center of Innovation (COI) for Logistics director for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

If it’s a statewide problem that requires every part of the state to participate, it should be funded by a state tax!

So why is T-SPLOST even being proposed?

“We need each node in that chain and system to step up and participate,” he says. “Companies don’t expect you to have all the answers, but they expect you to have a plan, and it’s our Freight Plan, RTR, Competitiveness Initiative and other efforts that are creating jobs for Georgia today.”

Who are these unnamed “companies” and why are they trying to dictate state tax policy by disguising it as a “local” tax? State taxes should benefit the citizens first, not unnamed “companies”.