I had planned on writing this column in support of TSPLOST anyway, but then I received J. B. Manley’s letter opposing TSPLOST and after reading it, realized it would make a perfect counterpoint to my column. He and I agree on some of the things the state has done, but we have different perspectives. With his permission, I’m running both to give you a chance to hear from both sides.
I think TSPLOST is a great idea, and here’s why:
Honesty: I’ve lived in Georgia all my life and the state does not have a great record when it comes to honesty. The GA 400 toll road is a prime example of the state saying one thing and doing another. The state said the toll would be used to pay off the construction of the road, then it would stop. Well, the road was paid off in 2009, but the toll didn’t stop. Now the state says it is paying off the bond debt on the road. That’s fine and dandy, but that’s not what they said they would do. So while I applaud Governor Deal for stating that once the bond debt is paid off by the end of 2013, they will end the toll on the road, that is still four years later than when it should have ended.
So, the honesty of the state government is definitely something we should question. However that, to me, is a prime reason we should approve the TSPLOST. The funding in it has already been identified to be used on certain roads in the 10-county area, including widening Highway 36 from I-75 to Thomaston. I would much rather use the funding from TSPLOST to pay for it than to sit back and watch our legislature decide to make Highway 36 a toll road to pay for its widening. Because we already know what happens when the state puts tolls on roads.
Will Help: I think the TSPLOST will help bring jobs to Upson County. Of course industry doesn’t want to come here! We don’t have any interstates running through our backyards, and with the exception of Highway 19, we don’t have any highways wider than two lanes. We’re blessed to still have the industries that we do have, considering the number of tractor-trailers they have on the two-lane highways. If TSPLOST is approved, the project that has been designated for us is the widening of Highway 36 from I-75 to Thomaston. Yes, the widening will benefit Lamar County, too. But it will also make it easier for those industries we do have to get their trucks to I-75, and will make it easier for us to attract other industries and jobs.
Taxes: I don’t like taxes any more than the next guy, but progress has to be paid for somehow, and unless you want every road in the county to be a toll road, this is the best we can do. A sales tax is infinitely better than property tax, because it is not just the property owners paying it. Every person that comes from out of town to shop pays part of the sales tax. And the good thing about the SPLOST’s, whether they be for infrastructure improvements, education improvements, or transportation improvements, is that they all have specific time periods, and once the end of that time period is reached, they stop. And they don’t start again until we, the voters, say so.
In a perfect world, politicians and governments would make do with the money they already get and wouldn’t keep adding on more taxes. But this is nowhere near a perfect world. At least with the TSPLOST and the other special purpose sales taxes, we, the voters, have the final say in whether or not we want them. You may think you’re saving yourself a little bit of change by voting down this tax, but in the end, you’ll be short-changing yourself and Upson County’s future.