The Georgia Legislature is abrogating its responsibility to lead.
There is no better example than the ill-conceived effort for Georgians to add another penny sales tax to themselves with the vote by regions about transportation. It is commonly referred to as the TSPLOST referendum, which will be voted on July 31 statewide.
Simply put, the Legislature should have solved this problem itself 18 months ago with a plan for improving transportation. If it had, we would be 18-24 months ahead with improving transportation, and by this, adding construction jobs. But because many of the present-day legislators and their leadership are short-sighted and weak-minded, they fail to pass a meaningful transportation solution. Instead, they toss a complicated issue to the people to decide the question. That’s wrong and shows that elected leaders are shirking their responsibility.
What do we send legislators to Atlanta to do? To solve problems that should arise and stand by their guns. But not this bunch. They abhor any suggestion to vote a tax increase, and instead send this problem to the people. Bad idea! They don’t realize the box they get into when they pledge “no tax increase.” This amounts to close-mindedness and an inability to move forward and work together with compromise — the basis of reasonable government.
Georgians should send the proposed TSPLOST to a solid defeat for several reasons. First of all, the Republicans in charge of the Legislature all tell us they are conservative and don’t want to send more money to Washington, fearing getting back fewer dollars than they send. But they want us in individual counties to send sales tax dollars to Atlanta only to get back far less? We can’t square that.
Secondly, the Legislature is having Georgians vote on transportation relief on a regional basis. One region might pass the TSPLOST, while the region next door fails to pass it. The result would be a checkerboard pattern of transportation developments, which would be a far cry from solving Georgia’s problems and stymie through-way traffic.
Then there’s the question of how Georgians are taxed. For the solving of transportation purposes, this TSPLOST would add a penny sales tax throughout Georgia if all regions agreed, meaning in Liberty an 8-cent sales tax. That’s getting mighty high and a far cry from the 3 percent sales tax that Herman Talmadge started in 1948 to solve our problems in Georgia.
Every time a new sales tax is imposed, it only means that big property owners get a major break. That’s why commercial interests, often led by Republicans, want to shift the tax collection away from property to sales, which everyone pays. But they conveniently forget to mention that it is a major saving in taxes for big-time property owners. Not only that, but in slow business times like now, fewer dollars are collected from sales taxes. Property taxes are much more stable.
And remember, all sales taxes are regressive, hurting the mid- and lower earners much more than the wealthy.
We don’t have a solution for how to improve transportation. However, we don’t feel adding a penny sales tax either in a region or throughout the state will be the solution. It’s the wrong approach.
Reject this TSPLOST tax, voters. And send a message to the legislators that we want them back in session, knocking heads, compromising and producing a solid solution to our transportation woes.
Brack, a native Georgian, is a retired newspaperman, with weekly, suburban and metro experience. He retired in 2001 from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.