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Column: The transit tax will pass but should it?
by Dale Cardwell
Columnist
April 12, 2012 09:37 AM | 755 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dale Cardwell
Dale Cardwell
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The timing couldn’t be worse. Metro Atlanta’s leaders are asking you to give them even more money. This time, they want you to vote in favor of a 1-percent sales tax, allegedly dedicated to transportation projects across a 10-county region.

There is absolutely no question the area desperately needs to address traffic congestion. Metro Atlanta is documented to be among the nation’s worst commutes, mentioned in the same breath as Los Angeles and Washington. The problem is, we don’t trust our leaders and we have good reason.

According to the legislation, if the penny tax receives voter approval, it will be in place for 10 years. The law states it cannot be extended without voter approval. Yeah, right. That’s what our legislators told us about Ga. 400.

When the road was paid off in 2011, the tolls would come off. It didn’t happen. Tolls collected on 400 are now being used for other projects. So much for the promise. Is that enough reason to vote against the tax? Keep reading.

In 1978, Georgia voters agreed to support a constitutional amendment to impose a 10 percent fee on every traffic ticket and criminal fine, for the sole purpose of offsetting the cost of training police.

By 2011, nearly $500 million had been raised (or taxed) for that purpose, but a recent study found that only a third of that money is being spent on the intended purpose. The lion’s share is being redirected — through the state’s general fund — to other purposes. Is that enough reason to vote against the tax? Keep reading.

Just last month, the Georgia Legislature passed dozens of new laws. They created new ways of spending your money, and found time to approve dozens of resolutions honoring everyone and their brother. The one important item legislators couldn’t find time for was a bill that would prevent them from receiving gifts from lobbyists that exceeded $100 in value.

You see, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, apparently thinks he and his colleagues deserve perks like a $17,000 lobbyist-funded vacation to Europe for his family and staff.

Ralston’s perk is just a glaring example of a disease that’s infected pretty much all decision making under the gold dome. If your organization has money and enough clout to land great Braves, Falcons and Hawks tickets, you get extra special time with Georgia’s lawmakers. If you’re an everyday Georgia citizen and don’t have the money to afford a personal lobbyist for your family, you’re at a decided disadvantage.

The one-cent tax will pass. The Legislature assured that when they scheduled it for a vote when very few show up at the polls — the July 31 primary election.

After 30 years as an investigative reporter, I don’t believe for a second that 100 percent of the $7.2 billion that the penny sales tax is estimated to raise will end up being spent appropriately. I do believe a whole lot of it will be spent on projects — and some boondoggles — that please those lobbyists’ bosses.

So, should you vote against the penny sales tax this July? No. That would be like getting so mad at something that happened in Dahlonega, that you and your neighbors go outside and burn shops in your own downtown.

We’re in desperate need of regional transportation improvement and congestion relief. Just know that penny tax will likely never come off the books, and a good bit of the money will be spent paying special interests back for those great seats at the ballgame.

For great consumer advice and companies you can trust, visit www.TrustDale.com, watch Dale on TrustDale TV weekends on Fox 5, and listen to TrustDale Radio Saturday afternoons on Newstalk WSB.

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