Friday, February 26, 2010

On State Transit Funding and Gay Marriage...

Now I've gotten y'all's attention with this title, here's what I've got to say:

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has thrown his support behind a constitutional amendment would enable twelve regions within the state to vote to have a penny tax used to fund transportation projects in their areas.

However, he wants this to wait until 2012, to give the economy time to rebound.

I'm torn about this.  Until I read the first article, I thought the state didn't have a good reason to wait until 2012.  It's not like there's no time to put it on the ballot--the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Georgia was on the ballot eight months after the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled gay marriage constitutional in that state.  I was going to make some snarky remark about the state legislature caring more about that than about the vital issue of the state's transportation infrastructure.

However, the GPB article makes more sense.  Tax increases aren't popular when economic times are bad and even a mechanism to allow people to tax themselves at some future date (as this regional tax would be) would likely suffer from that, even if it would not immediately impose any tax increases.  It would be better to propose a constitutional amendment two years later and have it pass than to propose a constitutional amendment now and have it fail.

On the other hand, the House and Senate have deadlocked on this matter two years in a row.  I should know--I wrote the stories on it for my paper.  Not ramming it through now could provide additional opportunities for deadlocking, delaying it even more.

Furthermore, the state is on the verge of losing an $87 million federal earmark for an Atlanta-Griffin passenger rail line.  That would be the first leg of an Atlanta-Macon line, which would have both economic and environmental benefits: 

For example, If I could take the train from Griffin or McDonough to the proposed intermodal station in Atlanta and then use MARTA for church, Thrashers games, DragonCon, etc. I'd do it.  That'd save me some gas money and I could read, write, or just look out the window while I'm moving instead of having to pay attention to the road.  Plus I wouldn't be contributing to Atlanta's smog.

(I am but one person, but multiply me by thousands.  Plus there are people who commute to Atlanta from the Southside every day who contribute much more to the traffic and smog problems.  A passenger rail line could go a long way to fixing these problems.)

Plus, in the city where I work, I remember hearing about how a few years ago, when it looked like commuter rail would come to the city, there was a lot of investment in the northern part of town where the rail station would likely go.  Given how that's the poorer part of the city, that investment was needed.  With the rail line, many outlying cities would become "bedroom communities" and attract more residents and investment, benefiting their economies.

There's also the benefit to the state rail system.  The rail lines in Georgia "radiate" from Atlanta and Macon--which are not connected to each other.  An Atlanta-Macon line could greatly improve the rail network in general and make rail connection with other states easier.

(I hope endorsing these arguments doesn't make me a Keynesian.)

The regional transit tax could make providing the necessary local funding easier.  This might be the state's last chance to get the money needed to implement passenger rail without blowing the state's budget.

So what do you all think?  Is voting on it this November a better idea vs. voting on it in 2012?

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