Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In Georgia Conservatives Show They Can Govern Effectively

Maybe Other Conservatives Need to Learn Some Lessons from Atlanta

The state of Georgia has long been a Conservative bastion, and for the most part Conservative Republicans have controlled state government.  Everyone knows what this means, no tax increases and the starvation of public projects.  So it is surprising that government in Georgia is tackling a problem head on, even if it means raising taxes.

The problem is transportation, and that problem is huge in the greater Atlanta area.

ATLANTANS, it is estimated, have the longest average rush-hour commute in America: 127 minutes. The city’s transport infrastructure has not kept pace with its rapid growth and sprawl. According to Georgia’s government, the state spends less per head on transport than any other except Tennessee. But fixing the infrastructure means raising taxes—politically unpalatable even in fat years, and this is not one.

At this point most stories about a Republican run state would veer off into the “this is not a government problem” world, and nothing would be done about it.  But surprisingly, the state government has decided to do something about it, and it seems to be going about it in the right way.

in June 2010 Georgia’s legislature decided to let citizens vote on whether to raise their own taxes.

What!  Conservatives don’t do that, just look at California where the Governor had proposed allowing a referendum on raising taxes, and Republicans, who hate democracy said no, we’re not going to actually let people vote on this, they may vote against what we want them to want.

But in Georgia, of all places, this happened.

The Transportation Investment Act (TIA) directed elected officials in each of Georgia’s 12 regions to come up with a list of projects. The last of those lists was finalised in October. At the time of next year’s state primary elections, citizens in each region will vote on whether to finance those projects by imposing a one-cent sales tax within that region.

So the people of Atlanta and the surrounding region will get to decide on whether or not they want to improve things

models run in August by the Atlanta Regional Commission show that the completed project will allow around 840,000 more people to commute to work in 45 minutes or less. And the improvements will also save $800m in wasted fuel and time—a pretty penny indeed.

And the tax increase has the support of a bi-partisan coalition

the plan has the support of Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed, its business community, the heads of all ten counties in the region and Nathan Deal, Georgia’s Republican governor. The round-table approved it unanimously: no small feat, considering the disparate constituencies its members represent. The list covers a range of projects—building railway and tram lines, expanding highways, surfacing streets and improving bus services—around the region.

So unlike most Conservatives, Gov. Deal and other Georgia Republicans have moved into the world of reality, where someone actually has to pay for public projects. Let’s hope Gov. Deal still gets to go to the Republican Governor’s meetings.

And while public referendums are not the solution for every issue, with large projects like this it seems a good solution.  Atlantans can either continue a horrible traffic situation and the costs that go with it, or they can vote to pay for improvements.  And if the program passes and taxes go up, these are not “job killing” taxes that Conservatives rave against, but taxes to pay for public programs that provide tangible benefits.

It’s a simple concept, one just wonders why all Republicans don’t see it the way Georgian Republicans see things.


  1. You probably don't want to imitate Georgia. They want to raise the sales tax and then build a TOLL road that will slow down traffic for the rest of us and give the profits to a private company. They have already installed a toll road where tax payers built the HOV lanes and there is mutiny. Since there could be no road improvements built in "competition" with the "private" toll road the governor had to pull the project. Georgia repubicans have slashed funding for education and transportation to the extent that companies thinking of relocating here are deciding that poor schools for their children and waiting in the longest traffic commute in the country is not worth it.

  2. You should look at it as you would any major financial decision, such as buying a house, buying a car, or taking a vacation.
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  3. Except when I buy a car or a house I don't ask you to pay for it and then make you worse off.