Vote YES on T-SPLOST vote July 31
Top five reasons to support the transportation referendum:
As most Citizen readers are probably aware, Georgia voters will have the opportunity on July 31 to vote on a one-cent regional T-SPLOST for a 10-year period to fund transportation projects in their region of the state.
For the purpose of the vote, the Georgia legislature divided the state into 12 regions and Fayette County falls in the 10-county Metro Atlanta region where 157 regional projects will be on the list for voters to approve.
These 157 projects are funded with 85 percent of the T-SPLOST with the remaining 15 percent going back to the cities and counties, per a formula based on population and center-lane miles of roadway, to do transportation projects of their choosing.
Like most of you, I see a lot of waste in government and I’m not anxious to have my taxes raised, but here are five reasons why I believe voting YES for transportation is the right thing to do.
1. Metro Atlanta has a traffic crisis.
Depending on which study you read, Atlanta traffic is anywhere from 9th to 15th worst in the nation. We have seven of the 50 worst freeway bottlenecks in the country and that doesn’t even include I-285 at Ga. 400 because 400 is not a freeway. Our average commute times are over 60 minutes which is also one of the worst in the country.
Many may wonder what Atlanta traffic has to do with Fayette County. The answer is that, according to Census Bureau data, 73.8 percent of Fayette County workers leave the county to work and about three-fourths of them work in the five core urban counties of Metro Atlanta. That’s over 50,000 trips by Fayette County residents to and from Atlanta each day. Add to that all of the trips we make to Atlanta for ball games, concerts, shopping and dining and we see that Fayette County is very much impacted by traffic congestion in Atlanta.
2. Fayette County gets a significant return on its tax contribution.
Fayette County is projected to contribute $190.2 million over the 10 years of the tax. In return, we will receive $129.9 million for 10 projects in our county from the list of 157 regional projects, plus $43.6 million of the 15 percent mentioned above for local discretion, for a combined total of $173.5 million.
Not included in that number but of significant benefit to Fayette County is another $22.5 million to reconstruct the I-85/Ga. Highway 74 interchange, $40.2 million to widen Ga. Highway 54 in Fayette and Clayton County, and significant improvements on almost all of the major I-285 interchanges. You can see a list of all the projects at http://transformmetroatlanta.com/regional-projects/.
3. Economic development and jobs.
An economic cost/benefit study of the impact of the referendum indicates that there will be more than a 4 to 1 return on our investment. By spending about $8 billion, the region receives more than $34 billion back in Gross Regional Product by 2040.
If the referendum passes, transportation investments in the metro Atlanta region over the next 10 years will be almost double the investments made in metro Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics.
Econometric modeling shows that tens of thousands of additional jobs will be created and supported and two-thirds of those will be in mid to high-paying sectors.
Finally, because of the congestion relief the transportation investments will bring, the region will save $18 billion from reduced fuel costs and time.
4. Businesses throughout metro Atlanta are supporting the referendum.
Over 200 businesses have already contributed nearly $8 million to help educate and advertise for this referendum. These include some of the biggest economic engines in our state like Cox Enterprises, Georgia Power and Coca-Cola who have each donated at least $250,000; AT&T, Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Newell Rubbermaid and UPS who have each donated at least $100,000.
Some opponents of the referendum have said that raising taxes will drive business out of the state but clearly the business community is clamoring for the state to solve some of our pressing transportation issues and believes the regional TSPLOST should be supported.
5. Existing transportation funding is not meeting our transportation needs.
The overwhelming majority of transportation funding comes from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is funded primarily by the federal portion of fuel taxes, and the Ga. State Motor Fuel Tax. The problem is that neither is able to keep up with our transportation maintenance and new capacity needs.
This is primarily because fuel economy of cars and trucks has improved dramatically over the last few decades while the fuel tax rate has risen little to none. On the federal side, the gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon (24.4 cents per gallon for diesel) and hasn’t been increased since 1993. On the state side, the motor fuel excise tax of 7.5 cents per gallon hasn’t increased since 1971.
In contrast, fuel efficiency for the average passenger car has increased 40 percent since 1980. That has created a steadily declining revenue source for transportation infrastructure needs at both the state and federal levels while at the same time maintenance and capacity costs have increased.
After years of debate on multiple options, the Georgia legislature has decided that the best way to bridge this widening gap is with a one cent sales tax to be used for transportation.
A metro Atlanta regional roundtable consisting of the county commission chairman and one mayor from each county, plus the mayor of Atlanta, spent almost a year paring down approximately $24 billion in transportation projects to less than $8 billion in projects that they felt were the most important to be funded with the transportation tax. By law, the tax will last for 10 years or until the projected revenue is received, whichever comes FIRST.
So, while none of us want to have our taxes raised, this appears to be a good vehicle to pay for much needed transportation projects that the declining fuel tax won’t be able to fund anytime soon.
It is a pay-as-you-go tax with a defined sunset so we won’t be borrowing money and passing the debt to our kids. The tax is raised here and the tax revenues stay here. We know exactly what regional projects the tax will build.
We get back what we pay in taxes either here in Fayette County or when we travel to our jobs outside Fayette. All the projects in Fayette County are for highways and neighborhood transportation improvements. The voters, and not some faceless bureaucrat or politician in Atlanta or Washington, D.C., decide whether or not we should be taxed.
All in all, I feel like it s a good approach and I urge Fayette County citizens to vote for the TSPLOST on July 31.