By David Pendered
The campaign for passage of the proposed 1 percent sales tax for transportation is maintaining a slow but steady presence as the July 31 election day approaches.
After its launch on April 4 with the introduction of an advertising campaign on TV and radio, the campaign is well beyond its midway point. About six weeks remain before the vote.
The campaign went on the offensive Wednesday, issuing a media advisory chiding a leader of the Tea Party for saying an increase in the gas tax was a viable option to the sales tax as a means of raising money for mobility improvements. Previously, the campaign has largely involved statements of support from celebrities, elected officials and organizations; and an information campaign conducted via “wireside” chat.
The advisory took to task Debbie Dooley, a Dacula resident who’s a national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots. Dooley had endorsed an increase in the state’s motor fuel tax as part of her presentation during a panel discussion hosted Tuesday by the Civic League for Regional Atlanta. The panel was moderated by Maria Saporta, editor of SaportaReport.com.
“We support increasing the gas tax, which has not been done since 1991,” Dooley said.
Dooley proceeded to outline six other ways she contended that mobility could be increased without a transportation sales tax, including:
- Allowing MARTA to spend more than 50 percent of its sales tax revenues to maintain and operate the system;
- Creating tax credits for businesses that encourage employees to telecommute;
- Implementing service fees;
- Establishing more van pools;
- Improving traffic flow through smart red lights and other methods of flow control.
Dooley’s comments elicited a media advisory from Citizens for Transportation Mobility, the entity formed to oversee the advocacy campaign for the sales tax. The statement quotes Che Watkins, the campaign manager:
“We have been waiting on the opposition to come up with their ‘Plan B’ and we now see that they want to build more toll roads, raise gas taxes and take away the power of citizens to vote on a specific project list. We are frankly shocked that a Tea Party leader would advocate for higher permanent taxes with less public accountability.”
The statement noted that two of Dooley’s proposals – telecommuting tax credits and van pools – already are available. The statement continued:
“While these programs are worthy and should be continued, they are not new ideas and cannot be counted on by themselves to solve Metro Atlanta’s traffic congestion.”
Later Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle headlined the most recent event, a fundraiser at Atlantic Station.
The event provided the state’s top two political figures with an opportunity to talk with reporters about their thoughts on the tax before entering the fundraiser, which was closed to the media.
The governor, in particular, has been an outspoken supporter of the tax. Deal said in October at the annual State of the Ports luncheon in Atlanta that the tax was needed to hasten construction of roads and transit to enable the state’s logistics network to meet expected demand. Deal reinforced the message in his State of the State speech in January, during the annual Eggs and Issues event hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
“We need new projects to maintain roads and bridges that, if left unattended, will cost taxpayers far more down the road,” Deal said. “We must east traffic congestion in metro Atlanta. … I want to ask you for your vote, and your help in getting the word out to your family and your friends.”
CTM has issued a media advisory about an endorsement for the sales tax referendum from the Atlanta regional office of the American Jewish Committee. The statement includes this comment from Dov Wilker, AJC’s regional director:
“As an organization devoted to helping realize a more pluralistic world where the rights of minorities are respected, we are especially keen on initiatives that will help reduce our use of and dependence on oil in our transportation sector which is supplied by unstable, unfriendly and undemocratic regimes. Thus, we welcome steps which will reduce this dependence by helping Atlantans commute more efficiently and offer alternatives to the daily drive.”
CTM has issued media advisories about support the referendum has gained from three individuals – consumer advocate Clark Howard; DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson; and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, whose district includes three counties that will vote on the proposed sales tax: DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Rockdale.