TSPLOST opponents raise concerns about ballot 'preamble'By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Opponents of the regional transportation sales tax are raising concerns about the “preamble” placed on ballots for the July 31 primary.
The actual language of the ballot question is laid out in the state law that created the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax — the Transportation Investment Act of 2010.
Coweta is in the Three Rivers planning region, along with Heard, Meriwether, Troup, Carroll, Pike, Butts, Lamar, Spalding and Upson counties.
The preamble on the Coweta ballot says “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs, improve roads and safety with citizen oversight.”
There is no preamble for the other questions on the Coweta ballot, including local alcohol referenda.
The Transportation Leadership Coalition, which opposes the TSPLOST, held a press conference Thursday at the Georgia State Capitol.
Also present at the press conference were Georgia Right to Life, Georgia Conservatives in Action, the Valdosta Tea Party, the Atlanta Tea Party, Georgia Tea Party Patriots and the Georgia Republican Party, according to Claire Bartlett, media contact for the Transportation Leadership Coalition.
The preamble for the Atlanta region is slightly different. According to a release sent by Bartlett, the preamble states: “Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight.”
“We are disappointed that our elected officials would act in such a corrupt manner,” said Jack Staver, chairman of the TLC. “Our leaders know this proposed tax can’t stand on its own merits. So they have resorted to back-room trickery, deceit, and misleading the people of Atlanta and Georgia.”
The preamble language “was generated by the secretary of state,” said Jared Thomas, press secretary for Secretary of State Brian Kemp. “All the things that are in that preamble are referenced in the original legislation.”
According to a statement from Kemp, the legislation included several criteria for projects that could be placed on the “investment list” for funding with the sales tax proceeds.
The criteria include growth in private sector employment, reduction in traffic congestion, improved efficiency and reliability of commutes, efficiency of freight, cargo and goods movement, coordination of transportation investment with development patterns in major metropolitan areas, market-driven travel demand management, optimized capital asset management, reduction in accidents, border-to-border and interregional connectivity, and support for local connectivity to the state-wide transportation network.
In crafting the preamble “we did reach out for feedback to the roundtables,” Thomas said.
Each of the 12 regions had a “regional transportation roundtable.” Made up of two representatives from each county (except in the Atlanta region, where representation was somewhat different), the roundtables put together and approved the investment lists.
“In light of the involvement of each regional roundtable, I reached out to those groups for input on the preamble,” Kemp said in his statement. “Ultimately, the language in the preamble is all referenced in the original legislation that was passed over three years ago. The preamble language exists for this reason and this reason only.”
Kemp concludes the statement by saying, “I recognize that reasonable people can disagree on this matter and I hope that this note has been able to clearly express the reasoning behind my actions.”
In the original press release, the TLC calls on the governor, secretary of state and attorney general to “remove language that was wrongly placed on state ballots. The language improperly promotes a ballot question on the largest tax increase in Georgia history. Marketing language, not authorized by law, was addedâ ¦ offering misleading and untrue statements about the referendum.”
When asked Friday for an update, Bartlett said that “we will have more next week on this issue and other related issues.”
Paper absentee ballots have already gone out to voters. In Coweta, ballots were mailed to military voters on Saturday, and to other voters on Monday.