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Voters Guide to the Georgia TSPLOST: Viewpoints

Dave Williams, former Suwanee mayor, and Ron Williams of the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance voice their views on T-SPLOST.

Updated 1:00 p.m., May 3

Second of two articles.

Suwanee Patch asked former Suwanee mayor Dave Williams and the Gwinnett Coordinator for Georgia Taxpayers Alliance, Ron Williams, to answer three essential questions about their viewpoints.

What are the positions of the supporters for the tax?
Dave Williams, now VP of Transportation at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, supports the tax. “Staying put is not a recipe for success long-term,” says Williams. “We have to help ourselves, and we can’t depend on money from Washington. This is a way to fund needed transportation investments without debt.” Williams also mentions that other regions the Atlanta metro area competes with for businesses and jobs have already started taking measures like this, including Charlotte, Denver, Seattle, Phoenix, and St. Louis.  Williams says that if approved by the voters, funding is available for a  “limited time frame for a specific list of projects with accountability. Reimbursements are only given after the project is completed.”

Question 1: What are the top three reasons why voters should select 'yes' for TSPLOST?

1. More jobs. The construction sector has been the hardest-hit during the great recession. The investment will help create and support 34,000 jobs in this critical sector by 2040. Additional modeling supports the creation of an additional 200,000 jobs, including those jobs that are maintained year-over-year. Of the new or supported jobs, almost two-thirds of these jobs are in mid to high-paying job sectors.

2. Improved quality of life through more time at home. This is an important factor for attracting new employers to the area. Employers are looking for regions to show that they have a plan.

3. Less traffic. There will be a 24 percent average decrease
in future travel delays for roadways improved with referendum funding. These improvements include road widenings, new construction and improved interchanges. That’s important because there will be 580,000 daily transit trips in 2025, compared to 417,000 today.

Question 2: How are supporters organizing for the vote?

We will use phone calls, door to door visits, mailers and social media. We encourage supporters to help by looking for volunteer information at
yesonjuly31.com and  untieatlanta.com . The Georgia Transportation Alliance is heading the up the effort in the other 11 regions under the ”Connect Georgia Campaign”.

Question 3: If the vote does not pass, how do you believe the region should handle ongoing transportation needs? 

Today we are basically funded by the gas tax, which is a declining resource because people are getting better mileage and drive fewer miles.  We are totally focused on making sure voters understand what their options are on July 31. If voters understand the situation we are in and the opportunity to we have to solve it then they will vote yes. 

The population of the region will continue to grow so we need to make the needed improvements. TSPLOST is a very responsible and conservative approach.

There will be a citizens oversight panel that will responsible for following projects and reporting status on collections and projects. This gives a lot of transparency and accountability.

What are the positions of the opponents for the tax?
Ron Williams, of the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance and a Gwinnett resident, opposes the tax.”We are planning to educate the public as to why they should vote no for the referendum,” Williams says. “We feel like transportation is a local matter, not regional.” His group would like to see a plan for operation and maintenance of roads, and they don’t want to see Gwinnett taxpayers spending money that will help other counties fix their transportation issues. “It’s about home rule and we should be deciding how to spend our own tax money locally,” says Williams.

Question1: What are the top three reasons why voters should select 'no' for TSPLOST?

1. TIA forces counties to become “donor” counties for Fulton and Atlanta projects. County taxpayers are forced to pay for state and federal road projects. This regionalization of the vote undermines the constitutional right of “home rule” where local governments determine their fate. Citizens of Gwinnett are taxed enough already. If TIA passes, voters will be less likely to approve local sales tax (SPLOST & E-SPLOST) for needed projects.   

2. There are no guarantees that projects promised on the TIA list will be funded or completed. Once the state has the money, it can be shifted among projects, counties and regions. Studies have not been conducted to determine the feasibility of many of the projects on the list. No one can explain where the maintenance and operation funds will come from for the listed projects. We foresee future tax increases.

3. Voters are skeptical of promises of traffic solutions. The HOT lane debacle is a good example of how the government will throw money at a problem with no solution. No one can say after spending $8.5 billion and 10 years of construction how much less time commuters will spend in traffic.

Question 2: How are opponents organizing for the vote?

Georgia Taxpayers Alliance will use grassroots activism and techniques such as editorial letter writing, social media, blogs, flyers, rallies, demonstrations and attending public meetings to encourage voters to turn out against the tax. We are organizing in the 10 county metro-Atlanta area to get the “NO” vote out. Get more information at http://tsplost.wordpress.com/.

Question 3: If the vote does not pass, how do you believe the region should handle ongoing transportation needs?

Contrary to what the pro-tax advocates say, there is a Plan-B. The TIA law allows for the referendum to be called again in two years. This was designed to allow feasibility studies and reconsideration of projects. The state can also use the fuel and other taxes/tolls to continue with road construction and repairs as they have done for decades. Also, counties can hold Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendums dedicated to transportation. These taxes can raise tens of millions in revenue each year, and local governments and citizens can have more control. Existing public transportation systems are underutilized and subsidized at about 85 percent. Once current alternatives are used we can then consider expanding them or consider new options in the future.

Where can voters get more information on T-SPLOST?

  1. Follow community reaction and conversation on Patch.
  2. Read the Atlanta Regional Roundtable final report.
  3. View a map of proposed projects in Gwinnett County.
  4. Read the State DOT referendum fact sheet

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Bert Etheredge May 03, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Well, as I understand it the Beltline in Atlanta will get most of the tax dollars. As civil engineer I have permitted A LOT of developments in the Beltline. It is more zoning than traffic. I was constantly caught in between the Beltline ZONING and GADOT. The main flux was that GADOT's goal is to move traffic. The Beltline's main goal is to slow traffic down to be more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. These exact words came from the person in charge of permitting for the Beltline. Anybody that says different either has an agenda or is ignorant to what the Beltline actually is. Sending our money to bureaucrats in Downtown Atlanta to add more green space, bike and pedestrian trails as well as more regulations meant to slow development down will NOT help Gwinette county. Some may say that they plan on light rail. Well don't hold your breath. Even if they do, this is supposed to help traffic on 85 how? If Gwinette wants a SPLOST for traffic I am fine with it but I DO NOT want it going to any other jurisdiction outside of our county. If Mr. Williams likes the idea then he should raise property taxes on those living AND BENEFITING from all of the pretty new trees, bike lanes and light rail (snicker, snicker).
Brendan Moriarty May 03, 2012 at 03:47 PM
I will be supporting the T-SPLOST. Thousands upon thousands of people - as evidenced by the constant traffic congestion - travel across our metro region on a daily basis between work, home, and recreation. Creating viable alternative transportation options such as rail and transit, biking, walking, etc... is absolutely critical for our region. Offering viable and scalable alternative transportation benefits all of us in many ways. 1. Reduce fuel dependency - thus leading to lower fuel prices overall 2. Incorporates exercise into daily lifestyles of many - leading to better health and lower healthcare costs overall 3. Greatly reduces pollution 4. Reduce traffic congestion and improve transportation time for everyone 5. New employment opportunities - both directly and indirectly. T-SPLOST initiatives address and help us solve some of the toughest problems facing our nation such as dependency on foreign oil, pollution, employment, and healthcare.
James Bell May 03, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Also visit www.TrafficTruth.net
James Bell May 03, 2012 at 04:59 PM
"3. Less traffic. There will be a 24 percent average decrease n future travel delays for roadways improved with referendum funding." What study indicated this? This seems impossible to prove.
Mike Lowry May 03, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Sorry, Brendan, but you appear to be a bit misinformed. (1) Transit does nothing to reduce fuel dependency or lead to lower fuel prices. It can only do so IF all the busses and rail cars operate at capacity, which they do not. Private bus services don't run in the middle of the day. MARTA operates almost-empty busses throughout the day, wasting far more fuel than it ever saves. (2) Since I live in Roswell and work downtown, transit does nothing to help me get exercise. I have to do that on my own. (3) If you read the study on the Ga Public Policy Foundation web site at http://www.gppf.org/article.asp?RT=16&p=pub/Transportation/Transit/GAtransit100608.htm you will find that transit, as it is currently designed, actually increases carbon emissions on a total system basis. (4) The same study should put to rest the idea that transit reduces congestion. Metro Atlanta has one of the lowest density-per-sq-mile of any city in the country. Transit cannot solve our congestion problems. (5) Why have all of the new major employers located in the suburbs? The metro area has the nicest suburban lifestyle of any city in the US. Companies don't move here because of MARTA. The only beneficiaries of this tax are the high-density developers who are funding the campaign.
Mike Lowry May 03, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Disclosure is appropriate: Branden Moriarty works for the Emory Office of University-Community Partnerships (OUCP). One of OUCP's clients is the Beltline Boondoggle. http://oucp.emory.edu/our_work/community_work/housing_communitydev.html
Billy Bob Georgian May 03, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Hmmm....is it true that Branden Moriarty works for the Emory Office of University-Community Partnerships (OUCP)? And, that entity is in strong support of the Atlanta Beltline Boondoggle?
Ron Buice May 05, 2012 at 10:54 AM
1. This is not a good time for a tax increase 2. The "Pooling Money" idea was brought up several years ago, it's still not a good idea.
John McGuire May 10, 2012 at 04:29 AM
A couple of problems I have with Mr. Ron Williams' arguments: He says that he doesn't want Gwinnett County dollars to get used in the Region, rather he'd want that money to stay home. But there are plenty of people who live in Gwinnett and work in another of the Metro counties, and vice versa (my wife is one of them). We are a part of the Metro Region. The other problem I see is his last one if it doesn't pass. I interpret what he's saying as let's wait another couple of years and see what happens. For most of the last decade that's what has been happening and things haven't gotten better. Why would waiting another two years change that? Road projects don't get done overnight, so why delay it? As a roadway engineer who lives and works in Gwinnett this directly affects me in both my professional and personal lives.
Mark Sanders May 18, 2012 at 09:55 PM
I am a Conyers resident who used to live in East DeKalb county. I am against the T-SPLOST for many reasons. 1. No rail lines to be built anywhere south, east, or west of Metro Atlanta: How can supporters of this plan call this "fair" when many area south of the region are being left out? I find it absolutely absurd that funding for rails lines cannot be equally distributed in all regions in Metro Atlanta. Part of the reason why we have so much traffic in Atlanta is that developers are creating more jobs north Atlanta. Residents not living in north metro must commute long distances to work. There is no balance of job creation here in the metro area. 2. The state will waste taxpayers money. Residents in DeKalb and Fulton counties are both paying a penny sales tax that is still being collected over a period of 30 years. Since the collection of this tax, MARTA has not extended rail service to residents and business in South and East DeKalb county. In fact, transit services have been reduced and fare prices have increased. A recent investigation by WSB-TV showed that previous executives from MARTA have misappropriated funding! 3. Once the state collects the money for T-SPLOST, they can grant more funding toward certain regions and take away funds from others. Just because a project is "approved" doesn't mean that the state has to stay committed to it. 4. More funding would go toward roadways instead of mass transit. Are you kidding me? Say no to the T-SPLOST!!!

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