TSPLOST Passes in CSRA Despite Columbia County Saying No

Originally posted on CityStink
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc. contributed multidisciplinary review techniques in support of this article. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

Bucking a statewide trend, it appears that the TSPLOST tax has passed in the 13 county Central Savannah River Area region. The latest vote totals as of 11 pm on July 31 showed a margin of 56% voting in favor and 44% voting against with a more than 6,000 vote spread. This is by far the best showing for the TSPLOST in all 12 regions of the state, where latest totals showed that the tax was failing in 9 out of 12 regions.

Perhaps the biggest repudiation of TSPLOST came in the  metro Atlanta region, where voters are rejecting the tax by a wide margin of 63% against and 37% in favor. This, after millions of dollars were poured into the Atlanta region by pro TSPLOST groups  for an ad blitz pitching the tax. Its failure in the metro Atlanta region will make things very complicated, since the law states that any region which does not pass the tax will have their state transportation matching funds slashed….and with metro Atlanta comprising nearly 50% of the state’s population, that’s a lot of money. You can now expect a barrage of lawsuits challenging the efficacy of TSPLOST now that it seems to have failed in 75% of the regions, including the states’s most populous metropolitan area.

The TSPLOST also failed in Coastal Georgia, which after metro Atlanta accounted for the most spending by pro-TSPLOST groups. In fact, Chatham County rejected the tax by over 57% despite the Savannah port deepening being a signature project touted by TSPLOST backers.

So why did it pass in the CSRA? 
By looking at the most recent vote totals, it appears that TSPLOST mainly passed here because of Augusta-Richmond County (the most populous county in the region) where it was approved by more than 58% of the vote with a nearly 6,000 vote margin. TSPLOST did particularly well in predominately African-American voting precincts in Richmond County. The tax found its softest support in West Augusta and South Richmond County precincts with a slight majority of those precincts rejecting TSPLOST.

The story was completely different in Columbia County where over 58% of voters rejected the TSPLOST.   The latest totals showed 14,358 voting against and 10,340 voting in favor. But even though Columbia County voters resoundingly  rejected TSPLOST, they will  still be taxed anyway. Lincoln County and Glascock County also rejected the TSPLOST. The nine other rural counties passed it, presumably because of the promise from politicians that they would be getting over $87 million in additional tax revenue from populous Richmond and Columbia Counties

Since this is a regional tax regime, Columbia County is tied to the other 12 counties in the CSRA region, including Augusta-Richmond County. Under the provisions of the tax district, Columbia County will be a donor county, giving up  over $23 million of its sales tax proceeds to other counties in the region. But under the TSPLOST regime Augusta/Richmond County will be giving away $63 million of its sales tax proceeds to other counties, which makes the overwhelming support there even more baffling. Columbia County will also now be married to what many political observers consider a corrupt and incompetent Augusta-Richmond County for control of transportation dollars.

Impact on the 12th District Congressional Race
Lee Anderson voted for TSPLOST in the Georgia General Assembly, and now he appears to be in a run-off for the 12 Georgia Congressional GOP nomination with either Rick Allen or Wright McCleod. Anderson defended his TSPLOST vote by saying he was only voting to give the people a say in the matter. However, critics charged that the regional vote was unfair and would subject individual counties to the tax even if their voters overwhelmingly opposed it at the polls. That scenario now seems to have been born out in Columbia County. All 3 of Anderson’s GOP challengers said they were against TSPLOST. Now there is speculation of whether there will be a voter backlash against Anderson in his home base of Columbia County because of the TSPLOST outcome.

Also in the hot seat is Columbia County commission chairman Ron Cross, who heavily promoted TSPLOST. Seeing as how it failed by such a wide margin there, his critics have yet another example to show  how the commission chairman is out of touch with the average voter in Columbia County. If there is any bright spot for Columbia County over the TSPLOST outcome is that it may lead to the overwhelming passage of a referendum imposing term limits on county commissioners and the chairman.

Now the CSRA region will have one of the highest sales taxes in the state, making it less competitive for business. However, neighboring South Carolina  retailers are likely to see a jump in business from TSPLOST. ***
Stay Tuned… more to come.


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