Will Metro Voters Raise Taxes Three Times?

Well, they will be asked to over the next 18 months with the Atlanta water/sewer, education, and transportation taxes.

For some metro Atlanta voters, next year will be a busy and expensive election year with as many as five different election dates for Atlanta voters and four elections for other metro voters.  Let’s start the count with the November 2011 Atlanta/Fulton/Dekalb and Decatur Education SPLOST, the to be determined date of the 2012 Presidential Primary, August 2012 General Primary, August 2012 Transportation Referendum,  November 2012 General Election, and the to be determined date for the Municipal Option Sales Tax for Atlanta’s Water/Sewer repairs which though it expires in 2012, the city repairs and costs aren’t slated to be complete for another few years.  In a normal “boom” year this might not seem overwhelming to voters but we haven’t had such a year since 2008.

Georgia State government is short of funds.  When the state is short and cutting expenses such as education, then it falls on local governments and school districts to make up the shortfall.  These cuts will no doubt increase the budget problems local governments face due to the effects of the contracted economy (fewer good paying jobs, less consumer spending, less new investments, and a shrinking property tax base).  Some Georgia voters voted in record numbers in the November 2010 Mid Term elections indicating their interest in government and public policy.  However, can they be expected to turnout in four or five different elections, especially when two or three of the elections require them to vote for more taxes?  Furthermore, asking voters to raise their taxes over and over again in successive elections could lead to organized opposition from anti-tax groups such as the Tea Party and greatly reduce the chances of the referendums passing. 
Georgia’s unemployment rate has been up to 100 basis points higher than the national average for forty months.  Among African American and Latinos the unemployment rate is pushing 20% in Georgia and has been for almost three years. African Americans, Latinos and other ethnic minorities represent well over 40% of the population in Georgia and a very significant percentage of the voters in the urban areas of the state.  Over 28% of the voters in the November 2010 election were African American and other non-white accounted for 5%.  It is hard to imagine these voters, who are typically more receptive to raising taxes,  will take to the streets to increase their own taxes, while they are unemployed and underemployed, unless the issue is a compelling one with investments that will benefit them directly.

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