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Defeat of Atlanta Tax Measure is Huge Loss to the Region

In light of the resounding defeat of Atlanta's regional referendum on a transportation sales tax that could have brought 'transformative infrastructure' to the sprawling region, Brookings' Adie Tomer provides a brief post-mortem on the historic vote.
August 3, 2012, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Brooking's senior research analyst, Adie Tomer with Jessica Lee, explain in The New Republic the significance of the 63% rejection by Atlanta area voters of the one-cent sales tax known as T-SPLOST.

Opportunity Lost

"Regional votes give metropolitan areas an opportunity to sidestep the business-as-usual approach in Washington and initiate their own local vision...And that's exactly what makes yesterday's vote in Atlanta so troubling for that region's future. Presented with the opportunity to levy a 1 cent sales tax increase--and infuse the region with roughly $7.2 billion in new revenues--Atlanta's residents made a clear statement: We're not ready to pay more for better infrastructure."

"Besides missing out on major new projects, the voters' rejection poses some other problems in the immediate term. Without the extra revenues, Atlanta's leadership will have difficultly leveraging newly expanded TIFIA funds from the federal government. Instead, they will cede the advantage to other metros with referendums on the books. Advantage: Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City."

Furthermore, as Greg Bluestein writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "business leaders who backed the tax say its defeat could hurt recruitment, adding to fears that the region has lost its long-term economic momentum."


No doubt other metropolitan regions throughout the U.S. facing transportation challenges had their eyes trained on the ten-county Atlanta region and the eleven other Georgia regions voting on their respective sales tax measures.

"In the meantime, other states and regions can learn from Atlanta's example. As fiscal constraints persist, we expect that more and more states and metro areas will look to ballot measures as a way to secure investments in infrastructure....

The lesson of Atlanta: Communicating with voters is everything. Since voters who are uncertain of a measure's effects tend to vote no, raising awareness about the benefits of a ballot measure is crucial for a win at the ballot box."

Thanks to Angie Schmitt

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 in TNR (The New Republic)
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