Throw Back Thursday – MARTA Tax Increase Edition

That day in 2016 when Mark Toro, the developer who has built more apartments in Alpharetta than anyone else over the last ten years, begged Georgia State Senators to raise MARTA sales taxes on the people of Alpharetta by 50% because it would be good for his business.

I testified that the MARTA sales tax increase would be horrible for the people of Alpharetta. Fortunately for the people of Alpharetta I prevailed.

MARTA Tax Increase Hearing copy

 

Transportation follies continue

The third act of Georgia’s transportation tax follies began this week as the planning director of the Department of Transportation, Todd Long, announced his list of projects which could be funded with the tax increase. If passed by voters, Metro Atlanta taxpayers will be expected to pay an additional 8 Billion Dollars over the next ten years. With this week’s release of potential projects the state has winnowed the list down to a mere $23 Billlion. But since 23 Billion is nearly 300% of what can be expected from taxpayers the rest of the cuts will have to come from that master of efficiency known as a government committee.

The AJC has an article about this most recent revision of the transportation project list and you can read the whole thing here. Below are a few of the highlights:

A group of 21 local elected officials must take those $22.9 billion worth of projects and jettison about $15 billion of them, because the penny tax would raise only about $8 billion over its 10 years

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For  the moment, this is it: $14 billion worth of transit projects, $8.6  billion worth of road projects, $205 million in sidewalk and bicycle  projects, and $28 million for aviation.

Long emphasized that the  $14 billion price tag for all the transit was just a reflection of the  high cost of new transit capital projects, not his opinion on how much  the region should spend on such projects.

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Bodker (Johns Creek mayor) is ambivalent about the idea of Ga. 400 transit. While he favors transit, he said it has to be the right project, a sustainable one, so he’d like to see it studied first.  MARTA staff did not put the project on the agency’s list because of the difficulty and expense of crossing the Chattahoochee River to get to the next jobs center, staff members told their board.

But other officials in north Fulton favored putting the $839 million line on the list, Long said.

So the director of planning added an $839 million MARTA train extension to Roswell because “other officials in North Fulton” favored it. I can’t imagine who those other officials  might be.

The MARTA train is projected to cost 10% of all the money collected from every taxpayer in the metro Atlanta area over ten years and wasn’t even requested by the people of Roswell. That is the kind of decision making which will doom this entire transportation tax boondoggle.

I am starting to believe that the tax increase is doomed. And while I never thought the tax increase was a good idea, it is sad that the state will have wasted two years by the time voters make it official.

AJC: “Cherokee could be tough sell on transit vote”

The latest edition in the AJC’s ongoing series about the upcoming vote to increase Georgia’s sales tax explores the reaction in Cherokee County. I will post some highlights below but you should read the whole thing here.

But it’s an open question whether using part of the transportation tax for mass transit somewhere else in the region might be a lightning rod for residents in the distant suburbs, including Cherokee.

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A public-private project to add toll lanes to I-75/I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties could wind up on the final list of projects the tax would fund.

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“People in our group will actively oppose it,” he said. “We think the government needs to back off and let this economy recover a little bit first.”

The snippets above illustrate three of the biggest challenges facing the state of Georgia and the various Chambers of Commerce which are pushing the tax increase.

First, the majority of urban dwellers won’t vote for higher taxes to pay for roads while the majority of suburban dwellers won’t vote for higher taxes to pay for mass transit they won’t use. Watching tax increase advocates attempt to convince both groups they will get what they want should be entertaining.

Second, will taxpayers vote for higher taxes to build toll roads that will take even more money out of their pockets? I can’t speak for Cherokee County residents but based on our experience with the false promises about GA 400 tolls in Fulton County I personally wouldn’t make that mistake again.

Third, the U.S. economy is in the tank so is it really the time to take more money from people suffering from 10% unemployment, sinking property values and rampant inflation for food and gas? I think politicians are underestimating how sick taxpayers are of being asked to did deeper and deeper for more taxes regardless of how good the cause.

There are a lot of politicians, consultants, lobbyists and developers dedicated to passing this tax increase and don’t doubt for a minute that they will do whatever it takes to get it passed. They will also promise gullible voters anything to get their vote so don’t forget my maxim when it comes to tax increases,”Once you vote to give the government your money they will do with it what they damn well please.”