“This isn’t a penny tax, this is a 1 percent tax on virtually everything you buy,” Bell said.
Bell is the outspoken co-founder of a group called the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance (GTA) and offered what he called “alternative viewpoints” on the 10-year, 1 percent sales tax voters in the 10-county Atlanta region and across Georgia will decide on July 31.
GTA was founded by Bell and another activist in 2009 to speak for the citizens’ voice on many issues. The group has advocated on issues like property and sales taxes, and has conducted many rallies and media interviews.
“You might have seen me on the side of the road with a sign before,” Bell said.
Bell began by noting that T-SPLOST advocacy groups have a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign, but recent polls indicate the tax may not pass in the Atlanta region.Looking at Douglas County’s history with sales tax votes, he said it took multiple attempts for the SPLOST that is building the new jail to pass, and when approved it was by a slim margin. He said this shows local opposition to increases in sales tax.
Bell pointed out that some legislators who voted for the Transportation Investment Act, which is now usually referred to as the T-SPLOST, have changed their minds since the project list was drawn up. Groups like the Georgia Tea Party, Sierra Club and NAACP have also come out against it.
“This is the wrong tax at the wrong time with the wrong list,” he said.
Another issue Bell raised was whether Douglas County is a “donor county” that will put more money into the region than it will receive in projects. Various local leaders have reached different conclusions on the issue depending on how the finances were calculated.
In Bell’s case, he argued that even through the Interstate 20/I-285 interchange improvements under the T-SPLOST would benefit Douglas County, local funds should not pay for it because it lies in Fulton County.
Bell said some projects that are scheduled for Douglas County have been studied for years without action.
“Highway 6 (Thornton Road) has been studied to death, and we really see nothing,” he said.
On the same line of thought, he said some projects have already been funded, referencing comments from former Douglasville mayor Mickey Thompson that the Highway 92 realignment was ready for construction before T-SPLOST.
He also brought up differences in the region’s counties. Cobb County did not like the idea of a MARTA rail line entering the county, while parts of DeKalb County and Clayton County were upset there weren’t enough transit projects on the list.
Bell said the tax will hurt people’s wallets.
“This isn’t a penny tax, this is a 1 percent tax on virtually everything you buy,” he said.
Another issue Bell raised is what might happen if there are project overruns.
“The money has to come from somewhere,” Bell said.
As an alternative to the T-SPLOST tax and its projects, Bell said people should use van pools, car pools and GRTA bus service that already makes daily trips to Atlanta from Douglasville. He also argued that Highway 78 and I-20 are federal roads that should be upgraded and maintained with federal funds.
He predicted the tax will fail, saying, “It appears this tax will not pass.”
Bell offered a “Plan B” of an improved regional project list and a second vote in two years, but also advocated for dropping the idea altogether.
“T-SPLOST was ill-conceived,” said Bell.
Other alternatives Bell proposed include a SPLOST for only Douglas County and the idea that more companies might come to suburban counties like Douglas and Carroll if the tax fails and it isn’t easy to reach Atlanta.
“If this doesn’t pass, the sky won’t fall,” he said.