While Ted Cruz may have won national headlines on Tuesday after beating David Dewhurst, voters in Metro Atlanta, as well as eight other regions, shot down a 1-cent tax hike — what would have been the largest in state history — for a poorly conceived transportation plan.
The tax hike was put to voters in 12 different regions around the state, each of which had its own project list formed by elected officials in a “roundtable.” Supporters of the tax hike, which included the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and several elected officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, managed to raise a substantial amount of money — some $8+ million — to push the plan.
Opponents waged a largely grassroots and underfunded effort to put the brakes on the tax hike. And, as noted above, the tax hike failed in nine of the 12 regions. On Tuesday evening and into yesterday, Tea Party groups, which largely led the opposition, were claiming victory for the tax hike’s defeat:
The proposal to adopt a one-cent state sales tax increase via a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) was voted down in a closely watched election by an almost 2-to-1 margin, losing 63 to 37 percent.
Atlanta Tea Party coordinator Debbie Dooley said in a statement provided to The Hill that the vote was a victory for opponents of large government.
On July 31st, Georgians will not only head to the polls to vote in party primaries, but also to determine the fate of the the TSPLOST, a 1-cent local sales tax dedicated to transportation projects.
This effort isn’t the first attempt at a sales tax to fund transportation improvements and expand mass transit. Back in 2009, then-State Rep. Vance Smith, who would later go on to lead the Georgia Department of Transportation, proposed a 10-year statewide sales tax; which, if passed, would have raised taxes by $22 billion.
Disagreements between House and Senate leaders led to the effort stalling out, killing what easily would have been the largest tax hike in Georgia history. Senate leaders, led by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, preferred a regional approach to the issue. But with new leadership in the House in 2010, the Legislature ironed out a new tax hike proposal, the TSPLOST, a regional penny tax to be presented to voters this year.
Assuming all 12 regions pass the referendum later this month, the TSPLOST is projected to bring some $19 billion in new tax revenues to the state. In most regions, the split between regional and local projects will be 75-25. However, in the Metro Atlanta region, 85% of the $7.2 billion in expected revenues will go to regional projects. Fifteen percent will go for local projects. If passed in every region, this would be the largest tax hike in Georgia history.