Opinion Columns & Blogs

The politicians’ con

The T-SPLOST is shaping up to be the biggest con in Georgia history, not just the biggest tax increase in Georgia history. That “one extra penny” amounts to between a 14 percent and 16 percent tax increase on Georgians depending on local sales tax rates and the project list.

The math does not add up.

Consider that the “anticipated” -- and that is a key word -- amount of revenue raised will be $876,421,322 in Middle Georgia. Of that, 75 percent will go to a list of projects to be approved by the votes for the region.

That total is, again, anticipated to be $657,315,992.

Now consider that fully 33 percent of that money will be consumed by Bibb County. In other words, Baldwin, Crawford, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach, Pulaski, Putnam, Twiggs, and Wilkinson counties will be donor counties to Bibb.

After all those years of steady growth and middle class flight from Bibb County to Houston, Houston County will finally be sending something back -- its money.

Consider also the total project costs amount to $554,447,106 in, as the T-SPLOST advocates are careful to note, 2011 dollars.

In other words, while T-SPLOST advocates dangle $876 million in front of voters, what really is at stake region wide is $657 million in anticipated dollars over 10 years with projects costing $554 million in 2011 dollars.

If the accumulated projects are just $102 million over costs over 10 years -- a real possibility given the serious potential for inflation in the coming decade -- the money won’t be there to pay for the projects.

Never fear, the politicians will just ask, in a decade’s time, for just one more penny.

“Just one more,” is the common, plaintive cry of the politician and the crackhead. The crackhead wants “just one more” hit on the pipe before coming clean from the addiction. The politician wants “just one more penny” to balance the books.

The devil’s greatest trick is having us believe he does not exist. His second-favorite trick is convincing us that we can have just one more taste of sin before leaving it behind. With the T-SPLOST the devil is in the details.

Politicians in Georgia have been negligent in cutting real spending. Certainly, some has happened out of necessity, but politicians are sorely tempted by just one more penny. Feeding little real information to voters about the T-SPLOST, they hope voters will give them just one more penny without telling them it will be a penny on virtually everything -- a penny on every dollar spent, not a penny added to the final bill.

What is worse, this largest tax increase in the history of Georgia will be placed in the hands of bureaucrats who have shown themselves repeatedly too prone to reward friends by throwing money around on construction contracts.

More so, the very language of the proposal ignores the potential for inflated costs, making margins ever tighter and ignoring “maintenance costs,” a component of the T-SPLOST no one wants to talk about.

T-SPLOST advocates are selling jobs in the same way President Obama sold jobs with his stimulus plan.

A non-partisan study by Ohio State University found the stimulus plan actually cost the country private sector jobs.

Of the few non-partisan “no dog in the fight” studies of the T-SPLOST, researchers have found it too good to be true.

The math does not add up, but Bibb County will happily take your money if you choose to vote for it.

Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.