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The push for another layer of government

Cal Beverly's picture

On the opposite page, Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, lays out his vision of the state’s most pressing need: More money for “transportation infrastructure.”

Peachtree City state Rep. Matt Ramsey also weighs in across the page on the need for less “backward looking” and more attention to those things that might improve the economy of our area. More about that later.

I agree with Gov. Deal about the need for upkeep and improvement of some parts of our transportation infrastructure. I disagree with his means to get there.

In fact, if Gov. Deal’s vision is fully implemented, we Georgians will have added yet another layer of government to tax us at the expense of true democratic and republican (little “d” and little “r”) representation.

If you remember, “taxation without representation” had something to do with the original Boston Tea Party back when men wore wigs for special occasions.

How could what the governor wants be so dire, so fraught with ominous implications? one might ask. I’m glad you asked.

Listen to the governor’s own words about this $16-to-$19 billion tax increase: “Local officials and citizens – those most knowledgeable about local needs – put together the lists. ... In other words, local decision makers determined local transportation needs and will receive 100 percent of the new revenues in their region to address those needs.”

Well, that’s not quite accurate and certainly not the whole story.

What really happened in House Bill 277, the Transportation Investment Act of 2010: The Georgia General Assembly, abetted by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, abrogated its constitutional duty to stand accountable to its constituents on an up-or-down bill to levy a statewide tax for this supposedly critical infrastructure.

Instead, our stalwart representatives and senators — the majority of whom list themselves as being Republican Party members — punted their taxing responsibility by creating a carrot-and-stick (little carrot, lots of big sticks) new taxing entity, the 12 regional planning districts across the state.

Instead of voters deciding by majority vote on taxing themselves within a city or a county — Georgia’s historic political boundaries — the General Assembly has created a unique regional taxing structure that is uniquely un-representative.

Thanks to then-Gov. Perdue, new Gov. Deal and the brave-new-world legislators, all the voters in the 10-county metropolitan Atlanta region are lumped together for the 2012 one-cent sales tax referendum. Ditto for the other 11 planning regions around the state.

And a majority vote of this newly created 10-county entity will carry the day for or against the sales tax across all 10 counties, despite some entire counties within that regional possibly having voted against the imposition of the tax.

So now we have a new taxing structure — new voting boundaries created out of thin air — without any accompanying representation.

It no longer matters that, say, Fayette County voters 4-to-1 passionately do not want a new sales tax on top of all the other taxes we pay. Our votes are lumped in with this new political subdivision of 10 counties, and several of those counties have much larger voting contingents who covet our Fayette money to pay for projects dear to the hearts of, say, the DeKalb County Commission.

For me, that would be bad enough to say, “Wait a minute!”

But it gets worse.

That same HB277 — voted for by our own Republican legislators — also contains this gem: “Creates a Transit Governance Study Commission which shall prepare a preliminary report on the feasibility of combining all of the regional public transportation entities into an integrated regional body. Commission also has role of prioritization of transit projects.”

Gov. Deal as of this past September appointed the Transit Governance Task Force — the end result of that study commission — and then pointed to the next step.

“The metro Atlanta region has a multitude of transit agencies that work independently of each other,” Gov. Deal is quoted as saying. “The study committee found that commuters, transit stakeholders and the general public would benefit from oversight, streamlining and coordination of the individual transit systems in the metro Atlanta region. This represents the next step in the process, where we move toward drafting legislation that can make a real difference.”

There’s the ominous part: “... drafting legislation that can make a real difference.”

Most of the same legislators who gifted us with a regional sales taxing entity and a fourth level of government (city, county, state and now regional) will be around for the 2012 session, taking orders for difference-making legislation.

Historically, Democrats have not been averse to the growth of existing governments, particularly the federal kind, while Republicans of the classic variety have tended toward the view that less government is generally a desirable state of affairs.

In this current case, both Democrats and Republicans have joined together in an “ends justifies means” approach to the extent that a whole new layer of taxing government has been created, without — I might add — worrying their pretty little heads much about the lack of elected representation at this new layer of regional governance.

And this is supposed to be “progress”?

Does that bother anybody besides me?

Please, somebody make a coherent, reasoned argument that a non-representative regional government — higher than county but lower than state — is a good thing for our democratic-republican (little d, little r) form of government.

[Cal Beverly has been the editor and publisher of The Citizen since its founding in 1993.]


cogitoergofay's picture

Though your logic is compelling, your timing is is a bit off. It is the equivalent of dissident Europeans now arguing that the Euro was a bad idea.

Take your good ideas and focus on one person--- our State Rep. Matt Ramsey. Make him an impassioned opponent of this debacle of largesse.

Remember, "all politics is local" !

Mike King's picture

That's exactly what it is, and to me an unconscionable means of taxation. Our 'local' problem is that Mr Ramsey was one of the key backers of HB277 in the State Legislature. Impassioned opponent, hardly.

Vote No come July!

Robert W. Morgan's picture

the thing we didn't examine was how did we get here and why. Sure another level of government - especially one as autonomous as this one - is a very bad thing, but I think we can lay the blame at the feet of our own local city and county officials. How? Why? Very simply because they don't do anything productive. Even when they stumble across a big pile of someone else's money, they build an expensive local road that creates more traffic inside the county rather than solving the problem of traffic congestion (WFB) or they don't build or approve a road that would actually solve problems (McDuff extension).

Combine this with other counties that are also clueless, but do stupid things for other reasons (DeKalb, Clayton) and this gives the "more government is good" crowd a perfect excuse to step in and manage our resources for us. In other words they treat us like children with developmental disabilities - except they aren't polite about it, they just say they know better and they will fix it for us (with our money, of course).

Anybody see any hope on the horizon that we will be improving the quality of our local officials?

Live free or die!

Cyclist's picture

You hit the nail squarely on its head.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

I came across this blog and said WOW, my thoughts worded differently.
Below is an email I have sent out to every county Commissioner I could find with a listed email address. My words may be a little more fervent than yours but that is because I am so opposed to taxes without representation.

The main ISSUE about the Tsplost tax is as follows and should be of concern to everyone in Georgia:

The Governor and the General Assembly are attempting to change the time honored Georgia Constitution, whereas Counties are the local constituted Authorities for Governmental operations, and pass that Authority to a Regional Commission.

We have Cities, Counties, and State elected officials; now the General Assembly and the Governor want to add another layer of government, not elected, called the Regional Commission.

Under this plan the larger populated counties will have power over the smaller populated counties to do as they see fit because the power of the individual vote is no longer in the Cities and Counties but on a Region wide level.

This goes against everything the State of Georgia has stood for since its existence.

This Tsplost vote is about MORE than a 1% sales tax; it is about a FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE of Government in Georgia, and this without elected representatives. It is a shift to another layer of government with expenses which Georgia does not need. If this tsplost tax passes this will lend credibility to the Regional Commission and more control of local governments will be forthcoming through the Region level. County Commissioners will be needed only to pass along what the Regional Commission decides. I can foresee if this prevails there will be no need for county Commissioners, only county Managers.

It is driven by GDOT’s desire not to have to deal with all 159 Counties individually but on a Regional level and the State also sees it as an opportunity to use it as a buffer in dealing with Counties. While dealing with the counties on a Regional level for transportation makes sense for implementation of plans, giving authority to a non-elected Commission for taxation purposes is against everything we as Citizens should be against.

I am saddened that our elected officials would even consider such an idea without the approval of the voters in each County, with each Counties vote being legal. This Monstrosity called a Regional Commission without voter approval should be abandoned and forgot about; the Governor and General Assembly should find another way to raise the funds needed for transportation, not through some fantasy called a Region. Either there should be a State wide vote, as normal, on this tax; or they should go back and do the job they were elected to do. If they can’t stand the heat of the electorate, they don’t need to be in office. It’s time to quit passing the buck and knuckle down and do what we sent them there to do. If they want to try and create a layer of government called a Regional Commission, put it to the voters on a State wide ballot and change the State Constitution. And since the vote on the 1% tax is a plurality of the Region voters, the Region Roundtable members should be voted in by a plurality of the voters in the Region if such a State wide ballot should pass.

How many times has the State set up a process to either give that process more and more control, or dump more financial responsibility on it without providing financial support for the process to work. I see no difference between what the Federal Government does and what the State is now attempting to do, a mandate to provide the funds for transportation through a Regional Commission.

I would think that every local County and City elected official would be up in arms over this grab for power by the State to create another layer of government and concentrate power to non-elected Regional Roundtables without voter approval. By doing so the roundtables supplant local government.

This is an attempt at Taxation without representation, NOT GIVEN by the people. The way the process is now set for a Region vote; the individual counties vote has been diluted and negated by the larger populated counties in the Region.

The Governor and the General Assembly are responsible for this decision. Major changes like adding another layer of Government should be voted on by the people who give power to the State. It should NOT be mandated by the Government itself. We live in a Democracy and should not give away our right to vote so easily.

The State Constitution does NOT give powers to the Regions; only to Counties, Cities, Towns, and Boards of Education.

This is a call to arms for everyone who wants to maintain City and County integrity within our respected communities to contact their elected State officials and voice their displeasure.

The General Assembly will convene in January and if the voters contact them and rebel against this attempt at taking away County and City home Rule and passing it to a non-elected Region control there may be time yet to save our communities. I am against County home rule being given to a non-elected Commission.

For all County Commissioners who are NOT on the Regional Transportation Roundtable, are you fully aware of the significance of this plan and how it will take away your power to represent the ones who voted you into office?

Regarding the Tsplost tax vote in 2012:

This will be a large tax hike determined by only a few counties within each Region. The Region I live in, Region 2, has more population in 2 counties than the other 11 counties combined. The 2 counties have a 57% to 43% population ratio over the other 11 counties. Those same 2 counties will also get most of the agreed upon projects from the 75% ratio.

A 1% increase in OPTIONAL sales tax is equal to this: a 25% increase in optional taxes paid.

Here's the numbers behind my statement:

Say you spend $20,000; optional sales taxes in my county at present are 3%, that would be $600. A 1% increase would be another $200 making the total $800.

Simple math tells us this is a 25% increase in OPTIONAL sale taxes that everyone would have to pay out.

The devil is always in the details.
The poor and disadvantaged would be hurt the worst. This is a regressive tax against the poor in each county and also a disadvantage against the Smaller Counties and poorer Counties as they do not receive back 100% of what they collect and many of their citizens are poor.

For someone who has very little income, this is a devastating tax. For someone who is in a high income bracket, this tax has less effect.

Reported in the News recently; 50% of the population in America are low income or below poverty level, i.e. Poor. These unfortunate ones have no choice but to spend every last dollar they get to live on whereas those who are more fortunate are able to buy homes, save some money, and still have discretionary income.

It is true the higher income will pay more in 1% taxes because they spend more. But their spending more is from discretionary income, whereas for the poor they have no choice but to spend ALL their income.

I thank you for your service in your local communities. And I hope governmental power remains local. That will be my vote.

Mike Sims


I also wonder if this Regional Commission mess would be legal under the State Constitution? A clear violation of Home Rule over counties and cities?

And if the Region is not a legal voting entity under the Constitution, would a vote count even be valid?

Any Constitutional Lawyers on the Blogs?


TSPLOST is our opportunity to do something about the transportation problems facing the Atlanta area. It may not be perfect but it is the only game in town.

I hear a lot of whining and nay-saying about TSPLOST but if we do not support TSPLOST, what do we do about our transportation dilemma?

The opponents of TSPLOST have no alternative. The Georgia Legislature does not have the courage to deal with Atlanta's transportation problems so it passes the buck to the regional referendum.

If TSPLOST is defeated, the Atlanta region is back at square one. Does the Georgia tea party and anti-tax enthusiasts have any alternative? Do they care? No. They just pout, stamp their feet, and say NO, No, No.


I apologize for any confusion that may have come up from using the term Regional Commission in the post below.

The problem I have is an unelected Regional Roundtable and I use the term Roundtable so there will be no more confusion.

Having said the above I again state, a Region Roundtable as it exists is an unelected Commission, Commissioners, Authority, Roundtable, Board, or anything else one might want to name it.

As I stated in my post below, GDOT planning on a Regional level on how to allocate funds, projects, and coordinating those projects make good sense; having taxing powers based on a plurality of the voters in the Region does not make good sense because it has not been established beforehand as a voting block or group.

So how does the State come up with the idea and passage of legislation to create taxing power with a newly formed voting procedure without voter approval. To me the State has made a bad decision without voter approval Statewide on this issue of Region wide plurality voting. What will be next? Under City, County, and State we have Constitutional rule, under Regional we have something that sounds like it might come from China or Russia.

I will try again to explain my points that a Region is made up by a vastly different group and number of voters who heretofore voted on a City, County, or
State level. The State has taxation powers; the Counties have taxation powers and also the Cities. All three of the preceding are Municipal Corporations under the Charter of the State of Georgia to abide by certain rules with certain taxation powers. A Region is not a Municipal Corporation, but the State of Georgia in conjunction with the Counties of the State are creating another layer of government with taxing powers based on a plurality of voter count in a Region (which is not a Chartered Municipality); and not on a chartered form of government such as City, County, or State wherein voters are determined by the boundaries they live in, whether City, county, or State. So in reality this is another layer of government being imposed on the people without duly elected Representatives voted on by the people.

As it is formed now I have people representing me from all the other 12 counties in the Region. I didn't vote for them, I don't know them and I sure as heck don't want to give them taxing powers when they don't have to play by the same rules as Cities and Counties.

And I'm saying if the State of Georgia and the Counties want to do this, put it on the ballot and let the people vote Statewide.

And those on the Regional Roundtables were elected to their respective City or County to serve their respective City or County. They were not elected to the Region Roundtable by the populace of the Region, they were selected.

To me the 1% tax is not the issue, the issue is another level of Government where the Governor and the General Assembly has put the Cart before the Horse and have left the voters out of the equation of forming another layer of Government. I will vote NO; not to the tax, but to an unelected Regional Roundtable.

Have a Merry Christmas!


The State of Georgia through our General Assembly and Governor is asking the voters of all Georgia Counties to vote on a Transportation 1% sales tax called a TSPLOST tax in July 2012.

This 1% sales tax is in addition to other 1% sales taxes Counties already have in place. This would be called the TSPLOST tax (Transportation Special Projects Local Option Sales Tax).

Most Counties have a 1% ELOST tax, a 1% SPLOST tax, and a 1% LOST (or HOST)tax.

The ELOST tax (Education Local Option Sales Tax) is a special tax for Local School Systems to improve infrastructure within their County.

The SPLOST tax (Special Projects Local Option Sales Tax) is a special tax for Local County Government to improve infrastructure within their county.

The LOST tax (Local Option Sales Tax, some call it the HOST TAX, i.e. Homestead Option Sales Tax) is a special tax to alleviate property taxes within the County, i.e. allows a reduction in the millage rate. Counties are now taking a share of this tax and applying to other county projects.

Now the State of Georgia wants voters to approve a 1% sales tax for roads and bridges and other infrastructure that falls under GDOT’s (Georgia Department of Transformation) purview.

This would bring to 4, the number of 1% optional sales taxes placed upon all Citizens of Georgia.

Counties using the SPLOST tax get to keep all the monies collected (100%) from this tax to benefit the needs of their county. This tax can, and most often is, used to improve roads and bridges and other needs of the County.

Under the TSPLOST tax rules, counties are only allowed to share 25% of the tax collected within their Region of Counties to be used within their respective counties. The other 75% goes to the Regions where there is a need for improvement bound by the constrained lists. This constrained list has a lot of input from GDOT as there are State roads involved and one Regions plan may need to match up with another Regions plan to avoid confusion. The funds will be used primarily in heavily populated areas where there are heavy traffic patterns.
Here is the main web link. Once there just click on the Projects lists or adopted criteria for your Region or any other link you might want to see.

This is a discriminatory tax pitting larger counties against smaller counties within their Region.
Larger counties getting a bigger piece of the 75% that the State collects from the tax.

Our Counties have a SPLOST tax we can use for improvement, and we keep 100% of it. We don’t need a TSPLOST tax where counties only get back a portion of the tax.

This TSPLOST tax is being put to the voters because our Elected Officials have failed in their duties to provide a Budget and make a decision on how best to spend our tax dollars. And now they are asking the voters to make a choice about a 1% sales tax to increase the Revenue needed for Road and Bridge improvements.

We elected them to make these decisions on tax increases and Budget decisions and now they are spending untold tens of thousands in efforts to get this tax passed by the voters in July 2012 because they have failed to make decisions and now are attempting to shift the decision to the voters, and let the property owners guarantee the debt.

This is a bad tax for the citizens of Georgia. I ask you to send our Legislators back to Atlanta to make a right decision and do what we pay them for, and that is to make hard decisions based on equality of taxation. The ones that do the most damage to our transportation infrastructure are the trucking industry, let them man up and bear a bigger share of the burden.

This tax hurts the poor the worst and there is no food exemption for this tax.

Mike Sims
Blairsville, Ga.


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