Play or Pay: How We Are Subject to TSPLOST Extortion

Cities in Fulton County are being held up at legislative gunpoint in Fulton County, Georgia, and if they do not play along with how the rules have been written by the State Legislature, their constituents will pay the price.

Cities within Fulton County (I live in Johns Creek) are required to either get on board with a Transportation Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) or run the risk of having the TSPLOST passed in the fall of 2016, and their jurisdictions be subject to the tax and receive nothing.

Voters outside the city of Atlanta would consider a 0.75¢ sales tax that would authorize transportation projects like roads, bridges, sidewalks, traffic signals, and more. The projects will be recommended by the community. Each Fulton County city, as well as unincorporated Fulton, will have the chance to select projects that are important to that community.

Following on the heels of the Georgia’s revamped gas tax, which is taking billions in new taxes for roads, the Fulton TSPLOST is set to extract another $568 million in new taxes collected within Fulton County over the next five years.  This is not a small amount of revenue to take out of a rapidly weakening economy.

For a city like Johns Creek, they are left with two poor options:

A) Get behind the TSPLOST, spending time and money to attend meetings, come up with transportation projects, debate the priority of these projects, spend money to effectively promote the TSPLOST;

OR

B) Vote Against the TSPLOST, have the vote for the TSPLOST passed in a November 2016 vote, and for the next 5 years have their taxpayers pay the sales tax and get absolutely nothing.

It’s an ingenious mechanism that makes this work, and thus why the cities are extorted into participating.

To move forward, the cities of Fulton County must enter into an Intergovermental Agreement(IGA).  When you enter that agreement you will submit your list of transportation projects.  Only projects on the list will be able to have funds spent on them from the collection of the TSPLOST.

So, if your city does not want to proceed with the TSPLOST, then your city will not enter into the IGA, and therefore no projects for your city will be submitted.

Imagine your city does not want to see this sales tax passed in this manner.  Therefore it does not sign the IGA.  It does not submit a list of transportation projects that will be funded.  You will pay the 0.75% sales tax on your purchases, but your city will not get the pro rata share of taxes for projects.  Where this money would then go is not exactly clear.

And that’s how the argument goes.  We either participate, make a list of projects, classify them according to three classifications, or we lose out.

By losing out, I mean “losing” big time.  The City of Johns Creek, for instance, is looking at an $80 million dollar loss if it does not play this game.

So what is a City Council to do?  So far the City of Johns Creek has spent a lot of time and resources creating and reviewing a plan of projects.  Most of these projects were already in one way or another on the horizon.  Unfortunately, the COJC and the Department of Public Works is acting as if this is some “windfall”.  It isn’t.  It is a tax upon the residents.

Will the current millage rate that would have funded these projects over time be rolled back? Highly unlikely.  Despite surpluses each and every year, the COJC has never rolled back its millage rate.

In essence this is a back door route to a major tax increase on residents, while allowing City Officials to spend the funds, and at the same time state that they never voted for the tax increase in the first place.

It sounds like a law written by politicians for politicians.  And once this tax is passed, voters cannot rescind it for five years.

The last TSPLOST vote failed.  Why?  In simple terms, the Public has not trusted GDOT for years.  Woefully inadequate roads and intersections have plagued the Metro Atlanta Area for decades.  On ramps and off ramps that should have been expanded years and years ago still function with a single line of vehicles backing up traffic for miles as they attempt to travel in and around our area.

For instance, take 141 Southbound as it merges with Peachtree Industrial Blvd.  For more than a decade anyone who drives this knows that taking two lanes of southbound traffic and merging them to a single lane is inadequate.  More than one year ago, GDOT announced that this issue would be addressed. Will we ever see this underway?

Further south at Tilly Mill Road, a similar situation exists, frustrating drivers daily during both rush hours.  Watch the clip from 11 Alive below and see if you agree with why we are so frustrated.

http://www.11alive.com/news/commuter-dude-waiting-for-change-on-peachtree-industrial/235329371

We are seeing the TSPLOST pushed just after a year of the biggest transportation tax increase in Georgia history.

Officials said about 73 million dollars was generated for transportation in May, the result of last year’s transportation bill that upped taxes on fuel.

 

That’s not a per year number.  That is a per month number.   The nearly billion-dollar Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (HB 170).  Add the TSPLOST  into the equation and we would seem to be more than awash in tax dollars for transportation.

So have you seen any major improvements after nearly a year?

A little more than a year ago, Tom Black, head of the Johns Creek’s Department of Public Works stated on more than one occasion the difficulty in getting pavers to accelerate the repaving in Johns Creek, even if the dollars were allocated.

If that is indeed true, then where are all the construction workers coming from to handle the billion dollars for GDOT spending and the hundreds of millions of dollars within Fulton County?  Will we be bidding against our other cities, and paying millions more for the same projects because of the demand?

Will your local government, like mine, be forced to play along?  Is that the way our government is supposed to function?  Participate or pay?

This money grab is not someone else’s money.  It’s your money.  Do you want your local taxes raised in this manner?

Worse yet, do you want you tax dollars forcibly spent this way?

This entire process lacks a final point of accountability, from start to finish.

As I stated before, this is a law written by professional politicians for the benefit of professional politicians.

You and I get to pay the bill.

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