No Confidence in the T-SPLOST

Here’s an advance copy of my column this week on the T-SPLOST. I’ve been talking about it on the radio in Atlanta and I really think it is worth emphasizing that I’m not automatically opposed to the T-SPLOST. But I just don’t think we should approve it until our elected officials have made a concerted effort to clean up the ongoing problems within the Department of Transportation and the state’s transportation bureaucracy.The transportation special purpose local option sales tax, which we all call the T-SPLOST, has a lot of good projects in it. I am excited to see funding for an extension of the Middle Georgia Regional Airport’s runway. I cannot state enough the importance of such an extension. It really will create jobs.

I have written two columns in the past several months on the need to expand Bass Road. That is in the T-SPLOST too. Several other projects I favor are in there too. So I better explain why I oppose the T-SPLOST.

First, you should understand that I do not oppose the T-SPLOST in principle. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation (GPPF) released a report earlier this week that clearly explains why other methods of funding are preferable. But the T-SPLOST was the product of compromise by a bunch of part time legislators who would rather build a new Falcons Stadium for a billion dollars and fund a Go Fish program while punting tough questions like infrastructure and trauma care to the citizenry.

Second, you should know there are programs in the T-SPLOST I fully support and think would create jobs.

But I oppose the T-SPLOST because I do not think Georgia has its act together within its transportation bureaucracy and planning. I think if we pass this T-SPLOST with its ten years of funding we will find ourselves perpetually renewing it always trying to make up missing funds and fix faulty projects.

I believe the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is an unrepentant cesspool of greed and corruption used by lawmakers and other politicians to buy friends and win influence. Every few years a new report comes out that GDOT has underfunded projects, unaccounted for demands for money, and is otherwise in disarray.

The few times our politicians have sought to clean up the cesspool they have sent in reformers who have been defeated, smeared, and tossed out with their reputation in tatters only to be replaced by good old boys who have perpetuated the system.

If we approve the T-SPLOST, we are agreeing to subsidize greed, graft, corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse within our transportation bureaucracy in perpetuity. We all need to be clear on that. The very same bureaucracy and outside organizations who for years have bumped up traffic numbers on roads to justify expansions where there is little justification will be subsidized by taxpayers in ongoing boondoggles hailed by politicians as job creating projects of local interest.

The political elites, most media outlets in the state, and the philanthropic left and right in the state are all pooling resources to pass the T-SPLOST. They will not tell you the cold, plain truth about what will happen because they have long ago accepted dysfunction as the cost of doing business.

I think the taxpayers of the state should think twice before, in effect, endowing a permanent system of waste, fraud, and abuse without ever forcing our legislators to really attempt to clean up GDOT and reform the insanity of our highway system.

The GPPF report makes clear, inside and outside of the metro Atlanta area, there are projects worth funding, but we have an infrastructure system in our state that should first be fixed to work together, not against each other, and now divided into regional problems.

Fix the transportation bureaucracy and I will gladly support the T-SPLOST as a necessary compromise. But until then, I vote no confidence.

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Erick Erickson

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