A classic case of “Who Pays For What?” Truck drivers need safe roads and bridges that are up to code, commuters need better mass transit options, and everyone could deal with a bit less road congestion. Yet this week, a large block of voters led by an unlikely coalition of environmental group The Sierra Club, the NAACP and the Tea Party only had to spend pennies on the dollar to convince voters that this wasn’t the plan they needed.
The tax was a referendum to pay for transportation projects in nine of 12 regions in Georgia, including in metro Atlanta, unofficial returns show.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, 63 percent of metro Atlanta voters rejected the tax, compared to 37 percent in favor.
The penny sales tax to pay for billions in transportation projects over the next decade was a draw for many voters in Tuesday’s primary election. The issue was on the primary ballot in 12 districts around the state, with voters in each region deciding whether to levy the tax to pay for road and transit projects in their communities. Statewide approval was not required.
Critics derided the proposal as an unfair tax on the poor that wouldn’t deal with the problems of sprawl. Tuesday’s vote “shows the power of the people,” said Debbie Dooley, Georgia Tea Party Patriots state coordinator and an outspoken opponent of the measure.
“They ran a top-down, PR campaign, whereas we ran a bottom-up, true grassroots political campaign,” Dooley said Tuesday. “The people are sending a message, and elected officials would do well to take heed: You aren’t getting any more of our tax dollars until you can show you’re responsible and can be trusted with the money you have now.”
Supporters included Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat; they were increasingly visible in the days leading up to the vote. They tied the tax to Georgia’s economic future and promised the infrastructure projects would ease traffic congestion for frustrated commuters.