Georgia Voters Approve 3 out of 12 Transportation Tax Proposals

Tom Warne Report, 3 August 2012

CBS News; Land Line Magazine – August 1, 2012

ATLANTA – Voters in Georgia largely rejected the proposed penny sales tax to fund transportation projects around the state, including the metro Atlanta region. By a 2-to-1 margin, voters in 9 of the 12 regions declined the measure on primary ballots over whether to pay for road and transit projects in their communities; the metro Atlanta region had the most to gain.

It was a four-year process just to get the measure on the ballots, and organizers spent $8 million trying to sell the tax to voters. The 10-county metro Atlanta region was expected to raise $8.4 billion by 2022 for dozens of road and transit projects that supporters said would create jobs, ease congestion and improve the quality of life for frustrated drivers.

Two major supporters of the measures were Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, and Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. Following the defeat, Reed maintained his commitment to the issue. “I respect the decision of the voters, but tomorrow I’m going to wake up and work just as hard to change their minds,” he told supporters at a rally.

In a statement, Gov. Deal also expressed his disappointment in the outcome of the vote. “Given state budget constraints, significant reductions in federal funding and the long time it takes to get projects completed, the rejection of the TSPLOST significantly reduces our capacity to add infrastructure in a timely fashion,” the governor said. “This is not the end of the discussion; it’s merely a transition point. There’s a consensus among Georgians that we need transportation investment, and we must move forward by working with the resources available.”

The three regions approving the measure are Region 7 – Central Savannah; Region 8 – River Valley; and Region 9 – Heart of Georgia. Regions that rejected the plan get nothing.

Unofficial results from the July 31 primary show voters rejecting the plan, 63% to 37%. All 10 counties making up the Atlanta region turned down the vote by a much larger than anticipated margin. The vote was no contest in largely white and Republican-leaning counties like Cherokee, Cobb and Gwinnett, with a closer margin in Democratic-leaning and majority-black counties like Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton. An unlikely coalition including tea party activists, local NAACP leaders and the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club helped defeat it. The groups spent far less money, but mobilized through grassroots organizing, email and social media.

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Statewide Results of the Referendum Vote

Region 1: NW GA – REJECTED

Region 2: GA Mountains – REJECTED

Region 3: Atlanta – REJECTED

Region 4: Three Rivers – REJECTED


Region 6: Middle GA – REJECTED

Region 7: Central Savannah R.  – PASSED

Region 8: River Valley – PASSED

Region 9: Heart of GA – PASSED

Region 10: SW GA – REJECTED

Region 11: S. GA – REJECTED

Region 12: Coastal – REJECTED

This is an interesting and telling situation. The defeat by a 2 to 1 margin is not a defeat but a rout. Even in metro Atlanta, where congestion is at its worst, it still didn’t pass. Since two/thirds of these ballot initiatives historically pass, this also begs the question as to why this was such a spectacular failure. Another interesting development is the unusual cooperation between the Tea Party, NAACP and the Sierra Club. There is no question Atlanta and the state of Georgia need to invest in transportation to address their growing mobility needs. Hopefully they will soon find a solution. TW


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