With all the excitement about the 117th and 119th district special elections, it’s easy to overlook another consequential measure on the ballot. T-SPLOST, or the transportation special purpose option sales tax, is a measure on the ballot in all districts in Clarke County that, if implemented, would raise the sales tax in Athens from 7% to 8%, a seemingly forgettable one-percent increase. The increase in state revenue would then go towards funding transportation and infrastructure projects.
The problem with T-SPLOST is not what it intends to do, the city of Athens (and the majority of Georgia) needs a major infrastructure overhaul, but it is the means of accomplishing this and the lesser-known fact that T-SPLOST also funds another, less approvable program that is the problem. A one-percent sales tax increase does not seem severely detrimental and to a fair amount of people, it isn’t. But the city of Athens is two things: one, it’s a college town and two, it has one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation, with 37.8% of the population in Georgia’s smallest county below the poverty line. This is exactly why a one-percent sales tax increase would be incredibly detrimental to the population of Athens.
This proposed tax increase, it’s essential to note, is not on the upper class or those who can afford it. Instead, it directly and negatively impacts the lower and middle class of which the Democratic party swears to be the champions (while also touting increased taxes as helpful). This tax increase, as is the case with the sales tax already, would affect clothing purchases, foods deemed as “non-necessary”, and other purchases such as diapers or appliances. This means that a single mom purchasing clothing for her children is going to pay one-percent more per year, reducing the amount of available income for paying bills or buying groceries (some of which will also be affected by the increased sales tax). Meanwhile, the college student working a job that pays slightly more than minimum wage is going to have to use more of his income to furnish his apartment or purchase new clothes for the changing weather, all so that the state government can allocate some millions of dollars towards the funding of a 39-mile trail known as the Firefly Trail.
T-SPLOST does not, as its proponents claim, “help the poor/middle class,” instead it funds a luxury trail at the expense of those who may not have the means or time to use it.
At a Democratic forum at Mt. Pleasant Church, T-SPLOST chair and former ACC commissioner Alice Kinman made the astounding statement that “if everyone doesn’t help fund these projects through an increased sales tax, we’ll have to pay for it all ourselves in our property taxes,” echoing the Athens-Banner Herald and illustrating that T-SPLOST is easing the burden of the more affluent members of the community in stark opposition to the mantra of the Democrats that “the rich are not paying their fair share.” As stated above, a massive part of the expenditure of the revenue raised by T-SPLOST would go towards the funding of the Firefly Trail, a leisure trail that spans 39 miles and will cost upwards of $20 million with estimates for a bridge portion of the trail ranging from $1.5-$2 million dollars alone, all paid for by raising the prices of your toothpaste or the bag of chips you grabbed between classes.
Additionally, T-SPLOST would not be the be all, end all of project funding funded by the middle and lower class as Democrats, particularly candidates in the special elections, seem eager to fund all their ventures with taxpayer money. At the final debate between Democrat Deborah Gonzalez and Republican Houston Gaines; Mrs. Gonzalez stated,
“I’d like to see something similar to the T-SPLOST measure for healthcare, an H-SPLOST” indicating that, should she be elected, it will not be only transportation that she wants to be funded from the pockets of the common man, but universal healthcare as well.
While T-SPLOST will more than likely pass in the liberal haven of Athens, it should be recognized as a poor measure, paving roads on the backs of the people it claims to serve. While well-intentioned, it falls short of its grandiose promises to aid the poor on paper and will likely fall far shorter in implementation.
Devon Spiva is a freshman studying political science. He is a regular contributor to The Arch Conservative.