I hate the T-SPLOST…and why you should too

Did you know that you have a fiscal and moral obligation to vote yes for the T-SPLOST?  According to T-SPLOST advocates, there is no compelling reason to vote no.  If you vote no, you just don’t care about your community’s transportation needs or your neighbors around you.  If you don’t support another tax, you are just heartless, and quite frankly, you aren’t using common sense. After all, what’s wrong with a fair across the board 1 penny tax that everyone shares? It’s like we’re all rowing in the same direction. That’s the argument they are making.  Let’s take a closer look at their reasoning.


First, the T-SPLOST is not an ordinary run of the mill 1 penny tax to fund much need community transportation needs. Whenever you read the word T-SPLOST, you have to insert the word REGIONAL in front of it. It’s a regional tax. And if you live in a larger county, you’re about to get hosed.


According to officials that have sold the idea, there are two reasons you are obligated to vote for the T-SPLOST.  The tried and true one penny rationale used for every SPLOST vote returns for this super tax.  What is wrong with contributing one penny out of every dollar you spend to provide for the common good?  That question is always asked of us from almost every official – elected and non-elected alike.  On face value, they are correct.  It’s only one penny, and when all those pennies are added together, it’s a significant chunk of pennies.  For that one penny, our community gets nice roads, safe bridges, new school buildings, a performing arts center (yes, a PAC is on the drawing board for Lowndes County Schools in its next SPLOST), stadium renovations…well, you get the picture.  That’s the argument.  For the most part, the argument seems to win a lot of people over to vote for just about any SPLOST that is proposed.  It’s also used to renew every SPLOST that’s ever been implemented.  Do you recall any SPLOST not being renewed?  Don’t answer that.  It was rhetorical and will be addressed shortly.


The second argument is downright neighborly.  There is a new, special reason to vote for the regional one penny tax that other one penny taxes are not designed to do.  This new one will help our neighbors in other counties provide for their transportation needs as well.  This argument is also technically correct.  On the surface, what’s wrong with it?  Don’t we want to help our neighbors?  After all, the residents of surrounding counties come to Lowndes County to shop, do business, dine, and other things so we citizens of Lowndes County will benefit.  In a sense, we’re just paying them back for the good they provide to us.  It would be just downright rude not to help them with their transportation needs.  Besides, it’s only a penny.  That penny will build new roads, repave roads, and fix bridges that allow our neighbors to come to Lowndes County more often to buy more of our stuff.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  AND, it’s only a penny!


If it’s only a penny, why do I hate it so much?  To answer that question, let me tackle the two common arguments for the new regional tax.  There’s actually a third argument for the tax that was often used, but I don’t think any politician will ever use that one again since so many local politicians just flat out lied.  Do you remember that argument?  They said that if we didn’t vote for the last SPLOST, we would have to raise property taxes.  Do you remember what happened?  Our community succumbed to their threat and voted to pass the SPLOST.  They still raised property taxes.  So, let’s not pretend anymore that SPLOSTs will prevent property taxes from being raised.  That lie has already been exposed.  Back to their other two arguments.


First – it’s only a penny.  Here’s the uncomfortable truth.  It’s more than a penny and you’re being mislead.  I’m under the impression that once a tax, any tax, is implemented our politicians immediately have tax amnesia.  They suddenly forget that we already pay A LOT of taxes, not just the penny they want us to vote for.  In addition to sales taxes, we also pay federal income taxes, social security taxes, Medicare taxes, state income taxes, federal-state-local gas taxes (which they raised for transportation), property taxes, hotel taxes, and others.  On top of that, we pay additional “user fees” for certain services provided by the government.  It’s more than a penny.  That’s a lot of pennies.  When you add up all the taxes you currently pay, what percentage of your income do you already hand over?  I’m willing to bet it’s more than a penny.  And, they have the nerve to want another penny?  Enough is enough.


Currently, the state of Georgia assesses every resident a 4% sales tax.  On top of that, local governments can add other 1% taxes to it (up to an additional 4% on top of the base rate ).  Over the years, our local governments have gotten us to max out the 1 penny sales tax so now the combined sales tax is 8%. Don’t be surprised if the Georgia Legislature increases this max rate to allow local governments to add more 1 penny taxes in the future. After all, what’s another penny? In reality, however, the local governments have doubled your sales tax rate over the years. It’s really that simple. They can slice and dice the numbers all they want to, but in the end, they have doubled our tax rate.  It’s 8 pennies and counting.  So, please, stop using the misleading language of “1 penny for progress.” Instead, be more transparent. It’s more accurate to say, “please continue to vote to double your tax rate.”


Before I go any farther, we have to agree on this premise.  Once these taxes are implemented, they never go away.  The only thing that is certain is that they will ask us to put another penny or two into place.  Before long, it will be 9% or even 10%.  Think about that and let it sink in.  One day, you will be giving up an additional 10% of your money every time you buy something.  You want to buy a car, negotiate your best deal and add 10%.  How about taking your family out for a nice dinner?  Add another 10%.  Now, if you’re a government official reading this, you are probably screaming at the screen right now saying, “it’s 8%, not 10%.  LG, you’re lying to the people.  Besides, the rate can’t go higher than 8% according to Georgia law.”  Technically, they are correct.  With the regional T-SPLOST, the rate is 8%.  So, plug in 8% into those scenarios.  I, however, know how government people think.  An existing tax is never enough.  They WILL come back wanting more.  As far as Georgia law, that law can be changed in one session of the General Assembly.  So that argument holds no water at all.


The first argument – it’s only 1 penny is misleading to say the least.  It’s more than a penny, and never forget that.  As a matter of fact, challenge a government official the next time they have the audacity to make that claim.


The second argument – it’s our duty to help our neighbors.  Here’s the reality if this T-SPLOST passes.  If implemented, your chunk of pennies will be redistributed to other counties.  You read that right. What did you think they meant when they said, “we have to help our neighbors?” That mountain of Valdosta, Hahira, Remerton, Dasher, Lake Park, and Lowndes County pennies will be collected by the state and sent to counties like Cook, Berrien, Echols, Charlton, and other counties that make up the 18 county transportation region.  In reality, Lowndes County will become a donor county.  So, let’s get this right. It’s only a penny. But, if you live in a larger county, your penny won’t even stay in your county. Think about that. Your money is taken from you and sent to someone else. Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s called REDISTRIBUTION. There’s another term for that. What was that word again to describe the redistribution of wealth? Well, that’s another topic for another day.