Early voting for the $8.4 billion dollar T-SPLOST transportation bill in the metro Atlanta region begins today. That means you have until July 31st, when the bill will go to the polls, to have your say as to whether or not you want to increase sales taxes by 1 penny per dollar in order to fund transportation projects across the metro Atlanta region. While the bill has massive support from most major business leaders across the region, it has a substantial and vocal group of opponents as well. Most of the opponents are made up of active Tea Party members in the state of Georgia. It is for this reason that I believe the outcome of the T-SPLOST vote in Atlanta will be a harbinger of things to come in November in the national election.
So what does a local vote in Atlanta on transportation have to do with national politics? As it turns out a lot is riding on this vote in Atlanta. The T-SPLOST bill has taken two years to come to fruition and finally be given to the voters for a decision. It took two years because it took a long time to get the leaders of everyone in the region to agree to a project list and structure that was considered win-win for everyone. Keep in mind though what we are talking about here. A T-SPLOST is simply a tax increase on local sales taxes of 1 penny per dollar. So if your sales tax is currently 6% and the T-SPLOST passes, it becomes 7% for the 10 year duration of the T-SPLOST. In essence, the citizens of metro Atlanta are being asked to raise taxes on themselves in order to fund transportation projects that will stimulate the economy and hopefully reduce congestion. Now do you understand why this has national implications?
This T-SPLOST vote in Atlanta is basically a scaled down version of the invest in America plan President Obama has been touting around on the campaign trail. You would think that in the heavily red state of Georgia, this bill wouldn’t stand a chance. The problem is that prominent Republicans, Republican leaning business leaders, and local businesses have gotten behind the T-SPLOST bill. Why is this? It boils down to money.
This bill is being dubbed the economic savior of the Atlanta region. Local businessmen and politicians have come to realize that the state has been losing out on big employers coming to Georgia and a common denominator as to why is always popping up. Traffic congestion and our willingness to pump money into transportation in the metro Atlanta region. Passing this bill will go a long way to alleviating that concern and likely bring more large employers to the state.
Opponents of the bill don’t buy it. Lead mostly by the Tea Party, there are new groups that have sprung up in the region working hard to get the ‘No’ vote out on July 31st. One of the largest groups can be found at TrafficTruth.net and they put up their own views of the bill and explain why they believe this is wrong for the region. When you get down to it though, it is the same argument that Republicans and Tea Party folks have been making across the country. No new taxes, no matter what they are going to be used to fund.
This is why the vote on July 31st in the Atlanta region will be a harbinger of things to come in November. Should the T-SPLOST pass, I believe it will show that the Tea Party has weakened and become much less effective than they were in 2010. The argument that people are unwilling to accept an increase in their taxes to fund projects they deem necessary will also be weakened, especially since Georgia is a solidly red state. Should the bill fail to pass, the opposite will be true. The Tea Party will have proven to be just as effective as in 2010 and the people will make their voices heard loudly that they will not accept increases in their taxes, no matter what the benefit.
What do you think? Will what happens in Atlanta on July 31st matter to national politics or is the issue just another local issue that will have no bearing whatsoever on the national scene?
If you live in the Atlanta region you can go to the State of Georgia’s, My Voter Page, for more information about where you can go to cast your vote today.