It appears on close inspection that Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) may have engineered a financial coup with the T-SPLOST vote.
Most supporters of T-SPLOST think we will get both T-SPLOST funds and
our regular state and federal tax funds for road projects. But there is a
not-very-visible term in the bill that may cost our area to lose hundreds of
millions of dollars of funds that taxpayers have paid and should be returned to
The ugly little secret is that the state (that’s GDOT) is also listed as a benefactor of the regional funds. This will be a legislative scam on a bigger scale than Bernie Madoff. This is much more than giving the people an opportunity to vote themselves a tax. This is “theft by taking.” If any elected official voted for this knowing that the regions would lose money through “redirection” of funds, they need to be held accountable for their actions.
The result of this little redirection could produce a gigantic GDOT slush fund to subsidize MARTA (500 million/year) and the other Atlanta area rail projects that are not fully funded by the “final list” that we are voting on.
After several conversations with local chamber of commerce representatives and both city council members and some state representatives it is clear that few understood how regional tax funds will be “redirected” by the GDOT to other projects both inside and outside the region.
After review of four GDOT presentations and reading their presentation on their website I thought I understood the program. However, looking at the FAQ on their website they explain in no uncertain terms how state and federal tax funds going into the region will be “redirected.”
Here are some quotes from the GDOT website under FAQ:
Why is Georgia building additional projects when we are having difficulty maintaining the current system?
…. In regions that pass the referendum, the revenues generated will supplement funding already appropriated for projects and allow Georgia DOT to redirect federal funding on maintaining our existing roadway.
Can the revenue raised from the regional sales tax be used to match federal funds?
Yes. There are many projects in the federal-aid pipeline that are good candidates for the regional sales tax. Helping fund the required match with regional sales tax dollars will allow state and local funds to be redirected to other projects.
What happens if a project chosen for the region’s project list is already programmed with federal, state or local funding?
If federal funds are replaced by the regional sales tax funds this will allow other projects to advance in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)….
The following interpretation comes from Nolan Cox of Valdosta, he says:
These quotes make it clear that regional funds will be used and state and federal funds “redirected” to other state projects. Since money is fungible, this means they will use our T-SPLOST dollars to “free up” already-committed state and federal funds to use as they wish. This can affect as much as 60 percent of the
I do not believe the mayors and county commissioners working on the Roundtable and the Executive Committee realized this. In fact, I suspect many legislators and the general public may not understand the shifting or redirection of funds.
Under GA Code 32-5-30 Congressional District Balancing our federal and state fuel tax funds are returned in equal amounts to each district over a five-year period.
Since Congressional districts and Transportation Investment Act (TIA) regions are different, the legal and most convenient way to “redirect” funds is from the TIA regions. That is why “the state” is listed as a benefactor of TIA funds on the ballot question.
If “money raised in the region stays in the region” as GDOT says, why does “the state” need to be listed as a recipient of regional tax funds? They do not, but they are.
By listing “the state” as a benefactor of regional funds, this makes it legal to “redirect” regional funds instead of federal and state funds as the FAQ explains. This means the regions lose a huge portion of the state and federal tax moneys they have paid in in fuel taxes. This makes a “bad deal” a “worse deal” for taxpayers, cities and counties. Stop the scam, vote NO on T-SPLOST.