Mayor Bucky Johnson – All wrong about new tax

This was Mayor Johnson’s response to my letter and MDJ Around Town  – James Bell

‘Splish-Splash’ column wrong about new tax

October 16, 2011

DEAR EDITOR:

On Oct. 11, the “Around Town” column ran with the headline, “Splish Splash — Cobb about to take TSPLOST bath?” We would like to correct two pieces of misinformation that were presented.

The authors, as do many people, referred to the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) as the “TSPLOST,” and even claimed that a “TSPLOST” is different from “the county-level SPLOSTs to which people are accustomed.” This is false. The acronym “SPLOST” stands for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The Transportation Investment Act is not a SPLOST. It is a one-penny sales tax that would fund transportation investments around the 10-county Atlanta region. By combining revenues collected in multiple counties, the region can afford to tackle projects that no one jurisdiction could pay for — like the interchange of I-285 and Georgia 400, which is a large investment on the TIA project list.

In the same paragraph where the authors inaccurately contrast a SPLOST to a TSPLOST, they claim that, “TSPLOSTS are a different breed of cat. Once approved by voters, officials are under no requirement to spend the resulting revenues exactly as promised.” This is also false.

The Transportation Investment Act states in Section 48-8-249 that, “The proceeds received from the tax authorized by this article shall be used within the special district (the Atlanta region) receiving proceeds of the tax exclusively for the projects on the approved investment list for such district…” The next paragraph explains that the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission is responsible for payments and ensuring that the revenue is being spent as authorized by the list.

In section 48-8-251, the legislation creates a Citizens Review Panel for any region that passes the sales tax referendum. This panel of five citizens appointed by the speaker of the house and the lieutenant governor is, “charged with review of the administration of the projects and programs included on the approved investment list.” The panel can demand reports from state agencies and local governments involved in the projects and is required to make an annual report to the General Assembly.

So, not only does the TIA require the Roundtable to follow through on the projects on the list, it provides for citizen oversight of the efforts to ensure that we, the public, are getting what we voted for.

Bucky Johnson
Chairman, Atlanta Regional Transportation
Roundtable
Mayor of Norcross

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