Monday, July 30, 2012

Why I'm voting "NO" for the T-Splost by Brittany Geneva

Does Atlanta have a traffic problem? Yes.
Do we need some money to fix it? Yes.
Is the current T-SPLOST or “Untie Atlanta” initiative the answer? NO.
Tomorrow is election day for the Untie Atlanta initiative. Basically, the folks behind Untie Atlanta are proposing a 1% sales tax increase to fund a huge list of transportation projects around the city of the Atlanta and metro areas. 
You’ve heard SO much about why this project a good idea…but is anyone talking about its drawbacks? There are a few key reasons why I am choosing to vote against Untie Atlanta.

Right problem, wrong solution
As a I said earlier, Atlanta traffic is definitely an issue. I’m pretty sure no one can dispute that. But, is T-SPLOST the solution? The proposal includes a bunch of road and highway improvements around the city, but no significant improvements to MARTA. There will be an additional rail line that goes to Emory, but um, that’s about it. A few extra buses here and there. But where is the REAL, SIGNIFICANT improvement that MARTA needs? Due to a bunch of bureaucratic foolishness, MARTA has a very hard time spending the money it needs to spend to be better. That’s the thing that really has to change. Until MARTA is free to spend some cash, and until someone proposes a major public transportation overhaul, Atlanta will still have just as much traffic, no matter how many lanes you add to the highways. One article I read says that the average driver’s commute time will only be reduced by 2.5 minutes…
All that money, and all that time, for 3 minutes less on your commute? Not worth it! In Los Angeles, highways have been expanded to 8 lanes, and that city still has some of the nation’s worst traffic! The bottom line is, unless you take cars off the road, traffic really isn’t going to get better.

The poor get poorer
Certain folks in Fulton and DeKalb counties ALREADY pay an extra 1% sales tax (8%). That’s because years ago they were promised that the extra money would go toward adding MARTA rail service to their area. Years later, still no MARTA rail. Now, their sales tax could increase ANOTHER 1%, and STILL Unite Atlanta does not promise rail service…it simply promises a few more buses. Residents in those areas will be paying an outrageous 9% sales tax, and still can’t take the train from where they live. New York City sales tax is 10%! Are we saying that residents in Atlanta should pay almost the same as residents in NYC? For a public transportation service that’s at least 100 times less awesome? That’s ridiculous. Furthermore, Untie Atlanta offers rail service to Emory, an area that has not already been paying an extra 1%. So, let’s put it all together…
-Certain folks are ALREADY paying an extra 1%, but still don’t have a MARTA train
-Other folks have NOT been paying that extra money, but will get a MARTA train
Uhh…what? Makes no sense to me. If T-SPLOST passes, the state will continue to squeeze money out of folks who already pay more than everyone else.

The poor get EVEN poorer
Another important point is that sales taxes are regressive taxes. Regressive taxes are taxes that essentially take more from the poor than the rich. Sales tax applies to everything—milk, toilet paper, medicine, all the essentials. Poor people can’t just stop buying those things because those things are more expensive. If a poor person goes to the store and buys $50 worth of essentials, their tax will go from $3.50 to $4, or in the case of the folks who will pay 9%, $4.50. They CAN’T buy less, but they have to pay more. It’s not like the poor can just “adjust” their lifestyle to account for things being more expensive. It’s an arrangement that ultimately promises to squeeze more out of people who can’t afford it.
The arguments in favor of T-SPLOST—apart from “improving traffic”—are all about the economy. Folks will be hired to carry out these road improvements. Additionally, businesses in certain areas will see increased profits due to the projects. I believe these arguments don’t carry much weight. Are people really going to spend more money at local businesses when things are more expensive? And yes, these projects will produce jobs, but once again, does it balance out the economic hardship that people will face in light of higher sales tax?
I hope that you all visit the polls tomorrow, and cast an informed vote about this initiative. As for me and my house? I'm voting NO.

Brittany Geneva: Check her out --->

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