Georgia Sales Tax Increase to Fund Transportation Projects, Referendum 1 (July 2012)

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Sales Tax for Transportation Referendum
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Type:Veto referendum
Referred by:Georgia State Legislature
Topic:Taxes on the ballot
Status:On the ballot
The Sales Tax Increase to Fund Transportation Projects Referendum, also known as TSPLOST, which stands for 'transportation special-purpose, local-option, sales tax,' was on the July 31, 2012 primary statewide ballot in Georgia as a legislative referendum where it was defeated in 9 of the 12 regions that voted on it.[1]
  • This "statewide referendum" was triggered by the signing into law of Georgia House Bill 277 on June 2, 2010, which was enacted automatically.
  • HB 277 divided the state into twelve separate tax districts and required that each district put together a list of potential transportation projects.
  • The law then called for this referendum to be decided on in each district about whether to increase the regional sales tax as a means of funding said projects.[2]
  • The 12 tax districts' electorate will decide on the referendum. Therefore, the tax increase would not apply to a district that chooses not to enact it.

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue pushed for the plan and in a news conference in January 2010, he described his proposal as "the ultimate democratic referendum on investing in transportation."[3] As of 2012, Gov. Nathan Deal currently serves as the state's governor.

Election results

The following are unofficial election results by tax district:

Northwest Georgia, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No88,09967.79%
Yes 41,856 32.21%
Georgia Mountains, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No83,92874.97%
Yes 28,025 25.03%
Atlanta Regional, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No418,42362.43%
Yes 251,778 37.57%
Three Rivers, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No57,01369.28%
Yes 25,275 30.72%
Northeast Georgia, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No65,88064.70%
Yes 35,948 35.30%
Middle Georgia, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No45,28856.15%
Yes 35,372 43.85%
Central Savannah River Area, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 49,336 53.68%
No42,58046.32%
River Valley, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 30,059 54.23%
No25,37145.77%
Heart of Georgia Altamaha, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 28,527 51.70%
No26,64648.30%
Southwest Georgia, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No37,05456.61%
Yes 28,402 43.39%
Southern Georgia, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No38,51457.87%
Yes 28,040 42.13%
Coastal Georgia, Referendum 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No53,75857.52%
Yes 39,698 42.48%

153 of 159 Counties Reporting


Results via the Georgia Secretary of State.

Background

On Tuesday, February 7, 2012, the Georgia House of Representatives introduced HB 938, co-sponsored by Representative Matthew Ramsey. If enacted, the bill would have voided the sales tax referendum, and instead, place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot asking voters whether or not regional sales taxes for transportation purposes should be authorized. The bill then outlined a plan under which any two or more counties contiguous to each other could draft a transportation sales tax proposal, which would then be put to the voters in each county as a referendum.[4]

Text of measure

The following text was taken from a sample ballot for Cobb County. Similar text appeared on ballot throughout the state with slight alterations regarding region and county.[5]

Atlanta Regional District T-SPLOST
Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.

Shall Cobb County's transportation system and the transportation network in this region and the state be improved by providing for a 1 percent special district transportation sales and use tax for the purpose of transportation projects and programs for a period of ten years?
[ ] YES [ ] NO

Support

The state chamber of commerce, backed by local chambers, was a major driver in the effort to pass the measure, saying it was an opportunity for economic development.[6][7] Some other arguments given for the measure included:

  • Necessary due to decreased funding to the state Department of Transportation.[6]
  • Shares responsibility for transportation projects with local level of government.[6]

Supporters

Campaign contributions

Comcast has donated $100,000 in support of the effort to pass the measure.[9] According to reports, Connect Georgia had raised between $2.5 million and $3 million as of May 2012 in its campaign for the amendment.[15]

Opposition

  • Tea Party members in the state sent a letter to Governor Nathan Deal expressing disapproval of the proposition, denouncing it as "the largest tax hike in state history."[6]
  • Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club[16]
  • Multiple Choices, a non-profit group that serves the disabled.[16]
  • Dekalb County NAACP[13]
  • Transportation Leadership Coalition[14]

Arguments

  • According to Multiple Choices Executive Director Bill Holley when discussing the measure, "It’s not something that’s satisfactory for most of us in the disability community. It’s also not satisfactory for John Q. Public."[16]
  • Douglas Callaway, executive director of the Georgia Transportation Alliance, stated about the measure, "At some point, we have to respect local elected officials. In their community, in their region, they know what’s best. They know what the public wants."[16]

Reports and analysis

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation released a 40-page policy analysis regarding the referendum in May 23, 2012. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation describes itself as "an independent think tank that proposes practical, market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians."

Media endorsements

See also: Endorsements of Georgia ballot measures, 2012

Support

  • In an article published on July 25, the Savannah Tribune said, "A 'YES' vote for TSPLOST is a vote to keep Savannah and Coastal Georgia moving forward."[17]

Controversies

According to reports, opponents of the measure took issue with the ballot language approved by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The section of the ballot title in question read, "provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight." Opponents said the wording was biased towards passing the referendum and hired attorney Pitts Carrto to investigate the process by which the language was chosen. No lawsuit had been filed as of writing, but the state said that it was prepared to defend its position should legal action be taken.[18]

Path to the ballot

Georgia House Bill 277 was signed by the governor on June 2, 2010, thus triggering this referendum to appear on the July 2012 statewide ballot.[19][20]

Timeline

The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:

Event Date Developments
Introduction Jan. 2010 Gov. Sonny Perdue , in a news conference, described proposal as "the ultimate democratic referendum on investing in transportation".
Signed Jun. 2, 2010 Governor signed measure for ballot access after legislative approval.

See also

External links

Additional reading

References

  1. KSFM-5 TV, "Ga. gov says he will propose bond package for transportation; backs statewide sales tax vote," January 14, 2010
  2. Summary of HB 277
  3. Associated Press,"Gov. Perdue: Ga. Should Vote On Transportation Tax," January 14, 2010
  4. TheCitizen.com, "Move afoot to kill regional transportation tax," February 8, 2012
  5. Sample ballot from Cobb county
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Ledger-enquirer, "Sales tax referendum backers say suggested tax increase vital to future," February 6, 2012
  7. Rome News-Tribune, "Georgia Chamber supports July T-SPLOST vote," March 6, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 WSAV "July Referendum for Georgia One Cent Transportation Sales Tax," May 14, 2012
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Johns Creek Herald, "Chamber officials emphasize the importance of TSPLOST," May 16, 2012
  10. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Will sales tax shorten Atlanta commutes, reduce traffic?," May 20, 2012
  11. South Cobb Patch, "National Transit Organization Director in Metro Atlanta to Support Transportation Referendum," June 24, 2012
  12. Associated Press, "Ga. transportation referendum facing tough sell," July 11, 2012
  13. 13.0 13.1 Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Environmental groups tout support for T-SPLOST, try to blunt Sierra Club's opposition," July 25, 2012
  14. 14.0 14.1 Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Road builders look for T-SPLOST boost," July 26, 2012
  15. SaportaReport.com, "Column: Gov. Deal leading state push to pass transportation referendum," May 20, 2012
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Athens Banner-Herald, "Transit advocates urge 'no' vote on tax," May 5, 2012
  17. Savannah Tribune, "Vote “Yes” For TSPLOST: It Is Good For Savannah," July 25, 2012
  18. WSBTV "TSPLOST opponents upset about wording on ballot," July 3, 2012
  19. Atlanta Business Chronicle,"Perdue inks transportation funding measure," June 2, 2010
  20. Examiner,"Tax vote to appear on 2012 ballot," June 3, 2010