T-SPLOST ‘no’ vote comes with a cost
Voters in Fayette and Coweta counties mirrored the sentiments of voters in the Atlanta Regional Commission and Three Rivers Commission areas on July 31 in just saying “no” to the 10-year regional transportation T-SPLOST proposal. The vote failed 63 percent to 37 percent in the ARC and in the Three Rivers area it failed 69 percent to 31 percent.
But there is a bit more to the issue because, according to the T-SPLOST legislation, the counties in the regions that failed to pass the T-SPLOST will be required to put up a 30 percent match for local projects approved for state assistance by the Ga. Dept. of Transportation, as opposed to the 10 percent match requirement that was previously in place under the Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) program that replaced both the Local Assistance Road Program (LARP) and the state aid program .
“The coercive nature of this law is unthinkable. Our state leaders should not hold our own fuel taxes hostage because ‘the people’ voted down a bad referendum. Nor should they incentivize voting for a terrible bill,” said Transportation Leadership Coalition member and Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown. “One penalty clause is bad enough, but two penalty clauses in legislation proves a sheer lack of faith in their own plan.”
Commenting Friday, Rep. Matt Ramsey said there is a significant interest in the House and Senate, and from Gov. Nathan Deal, in looking at repealing the 30 percent match portion of the law.
“I think we should revisit it January and take a strong look at the (30 percent match) and the entire law in light of the vote,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey also noted that, as it stands today, the LMIG program currently has only a small pot of money due to previous budget cuts.
Voters in the 10-county Atlanta Regional Commission area that includes Fayette County defeated the initiative 62.67 percent to 37.33 percent, according to the Ga. Secretary of State’s office. Those numbers could change somewhat since, as of press time, the votes from Fulton County had not been posted.
Voters in the Three Rivers Commission area that includes Coweta County showed even more reluctance to approve the T-SPLOST plan with 69.28 percent casting their ballot against the measure compared to the 30.72 percent in favor.
A further breakdown showed 77.45 percent of voters in Coweta County and 76.48 percent in Fayette County rejecting the T-SPLOST.
In all, nine of the state’s 12 regional commission areas said “no” to the 10-year 1-cent initiative.
“The voters of Georgia have spoken, and I will continue to do what I have done since I became governor: Work in consultation with state transportation leaders, legislators and local officials to establish our priority projects,’ said Gov. Nathan Deal. “There will be belt-tightening. It’s certainly disappointing that we won’t have the resources to accomplish all the projects needed to get Georgians moving quicker, but it does force state officials, including myself, to focus all our attention on our most pressing needs. For example, T-SPLOST contained $600 million to rebuild the Ga. 400/I-285 interchange. We will face significant challenges in that corridor if that doesn’t get fixed, particularly after the tolls come down and volume increases. We’ll have a ‘need to do’ Transportation Improvement Program list, but not a ‘want to do’ list. In addition to tight state budgets, we’re also facing a significant reduction in federal funds so tough choices await.”
Pertaining to the metro Atlanta area, Deal on Aug. 1 said the “no” vote slams the door on further expansion of our rail network any time soon.
“Neither I nor the Legislature has much of an appetite for new investments until there are significant reforms in how MARTA operates,” Deal said.