Ga. transportation policy is a road to nowhere

storm0622JG_01_FOCAL-1In a statewide AJC poll earlier this month, 84 percent of Georgians said they thought it was at least somewhat important to improve the state’s transportation system; 57 percent took it a step further, saying it was very important to upgrade our transportation system. A surprising 69 percent supported expanding mass transit.

Yet only 36 percent said they would support a higher gasoline tax to pay for those transportation improvements. Fifty-nine percent oppose it. Only 4 percent identified transportation as the most important issue facing Georgia. So if you’re a state legislator looking for an excuse to duck a tough vote on transportation taxes — particularly if you’re Republican — there you have it, simple and obvious:

The public does not support it.

And to be honest, the public does NOT support it. The decisive rejection of higher taxes in the AJC poll has been echoed in other polls on the subject, and such findings come less than three years after a proposed sales tax increase for transportation was rejected by voters in most regions of the state.

But let’s take that honesty a step farther: That lack of public support did not just happen on its own.

In opposing all new taxes regardless of necessity and regardless of impact, Georgia voters are merely regurgitating the rhetoric and attitudes that leaders of this state have been preaching to them for decades. They’ve been told, time and again, that no tax increase is ever justified, that no tax ever needs to be updated, that government is a cesspool of waste from which nothing good ever comes. The entire power structure under the Gold Dome owes its position to that inflexible, absolutist mindset, and it is trapped by that rhetoric.

It knows what it needs to do. It knows that transportation funding has not kept pace with three decades of population growth, inflation or technological change. By now it also knows the long-term economic consequences of such a policy, thanks in part to a business community that was once content to whisper but has now taken to shouting. But if state leadership wants to counter decades of absolutist political messaging, it has to be willing to share that knowledge with voters, publicly, loudly and repeatedly. It has to sell reality, and so far it hasn’t summoned the necessary courage.

We’re not talking a rejection of the conservative approach to governance. All that’s required is an acknowledgment that any political philosophy, taken to its logical extremes, will lead to serious problems. When that point comes, you either challenge that mindset or you become the victim of it, and the data say that point has come.

According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Georgians today pay less of their income in state taxes than we have at any point in the last three decades. We are 49th or 50th per capita in spending on transportation, and as Gov. Nathan Deal bragged in his re-election campaign, the conservative Tax Foundation ranks Georgia 50th in the country in state revenue per capita.

We’ve taken that road about as far it will take us. I mean, there are only 50 states in the union — we can’t get any lower in those categories than we already are, and looking around, I’m not sure what the payoff has been anyway.

And as the famous conservative economist Milton Friedman used to tell us, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Or a free highway or transit system.

Reader Comments 0

412 comments
dbm1
dbm1

If we had separation of state and transportation, we wouldn't get into this sort of bind.

Recon2/3
Recon2/3

Looks like global storming in the Northeast. Guess that may be why they're blue.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

These transportation poll results also reflect some lingering overhang from former Gov. GoFish's shafting of motorists with his GA 400 toll extension. Taxpayers have long memories, actions have consequences.

Fl0ydLiberal
Fl0ydLiberal

The essence of the top 1% philosophy - let the little people pay.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@NWGAL

We only expect the little people to pay for what they take.

Got a problem with that?

Fly-On-The-Wall
Fly-On-The-Wall

@LilBarryBailout @NWGAL No, as long as the 1%er's pay for what they take and usually that doesn't happen because they get a special tax break that us little people cannot take advantage (unless we made a few million a year).

straker
straker

Visual - "I find Chris Christie to be intolerable"


Have you read a detailed response from Christie as to why he made this decision?


Do you live in New Jersey?


No?


Maybe you should get some additional information on this BEFORE trashing Christie.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@straker

I've heard his excuses. (I wonder if you have?)

And I used to live there, don't any more, still know plenty of folks who do.


Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Only marginally related to the topic, but the number one reason I find Chris Christie to be intolerable--and no, it's not his anti-labor, anti-choice, anti-marriage equality piggishness, but this.


http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2014/05/8544757/clock-ticking-hudson-crossings-amtrak-warns

The end may be near for the New York region's cross-harbor rail tunnels, with no good alternative in sight. 

“I’m being told we got something less than 20 years before we have to shut one or two down,” said Amtrak C.E.O. Joseph Boardman at the Regional Plan Association’s conference last week at the Waldorf Astoria. “Something less than 20. I don’t know if that something less than 20 is seven, or some other number. But to build two new ones, you’re talking seven to nine years to deliver, if we all decided today that we could do it."

Tom Wright, the Regional Plan Association’s executive director, described Boardman’s remarks as “a big shock.”

“I’ve been hearing abstractly people at Amtrak and other people at New Jersey Transit say for years the tunnels are over 100 years old and we have to be worried about them,” he said. “To actually have Joe put something concrete on the table, less than 20 years … Within my office, there was a level of, ‘Wow, this is really serious.'”

New Jersey governor Chris Christie spiked plans to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson, likely leaving the metropolitan region for the next quarter century with all of two rail tunnels to carry New Jersey commuters into Midtown Manhattan. Those two tunnels are more than a century old and carry more more than 160,000 passengers a day. Hurricane Sandy flooded them and caused a lot of damage. They are also a dangerously narrow chokepoint on the one of the busiest rail corridors in the world.

The state and federally financed project called Access to the Region’s Core would have doubled the number of cross-Hudson tubes and relieved that bottleneck. Construction had already begun when Christie pulled the plug, a putative cost-saving measure that was also meant to demonstrate his state's political independence, and rededicated some of its funding to repairing the Pulaski Skyway.


LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@CommonSenseisntCommon @Visual_Cortex

There's no money for infrastructure repairs because so much is being spent keeping Democrat moochers fed, housed, medicated, and clothed.

$21 billion in the last 50 years.

That would have built a lot of infrastructure had it not been flushed down a black hole.

CommonSenseisntCommon
CommonSenseisntCommon

Time to start the A$$hole Party. If you don't like any of the A$$holes running vote for this candidate LOL

gotalife
gotalife

You will vote on jeb's "adult conversations" (with cons? Seriously?) vs more Obama/Clinton peace and prosperity.


No brainer. Clinton in a landslide.

gotalife
gotalife

Soon you can relax in luxurious Mercedes Benz electric driver less cars and not care about the traffic.

SFM_Scootter
SFM_Scootter

@gotalife I don't care about the traffic now.I'm just fine relaxing in my 92 Chevy truck and it's been payed off for 3 years now. (shock)  LOL

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@LeninTime Russia has brought this on themselves.


Get out of Ukraine and a lot of this will go away. 

Nobody_Knows
Nobody_Knows

@ErwinsCat @SFM_Scootter @CommonSenseisntCommon


Were the footballs used by the Colts deflated?

I haven't kept up too much with this nonsense but don't recall hearing if the situation was the same for the Colts. 

From the little I know I tend to think the Patriots were looking for an advantage but I don't think it would have mattered  based on the overall performance of each team.

Of course I don't have all the information and the fact that the Pats have been caught cheating before might have me biased against them.

barkingfrog
barkingfrog

The Freeway is not free ? Just another gubmint lie...
Thanks Obama.

SFM_Scootter
SFM_Scootter

@gotalife I wonder what those numbers would be if they started calling folks other than Dems. LOL

gotalife
gotalife

@InTheMiddle2 @gotalife Actually, ignoring the last election to stop him paid off. grubers will be grubers no matter how great a Dem President governs.


Americans are ready for a real election in 16 and Hillary will win easier than Obama. Twice.

_GodlessHeathen_
_GodlessHeathen_

Has anyone noticed that the Hawks (The Atlanta Hawks) have won 16 straight games?

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@_GodlessHeathen_ 

Also, sixteen games is the longest streak in the history of Atlanta professional sports.  Braves, Falcons, etc. have never done it.