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Posted: May 17, 2012 11:01 p.m.

Perugino: T-SPLOST: A tax trapdoor

There is no "free lunch" and as I have often stated in previous columns, "It's the Spending, Stupid!" The control of spending must begin at home, here in Newton County, in order to regain control of government spending. The economies of project costs are best managed through local control. Our country and in turn our county are in fiscal crisis and we must not layer on more taxes. It is our responsibility as citizens to demand that all spending is painful and absolutely necessary.

Home rule is just local self-government. The State Constitution of Georgia advocates Home rule. The core principle is that local authorities or populations seek a measure of freedom from the state legislature. This new era of regional governance and taxation will end the autonomy local counties have possessed to control their own destinies.

If we develop a Regional Transit Authority and approve the 2012 TIA referendum, problems created by another county will become our county's financial burden.

This July 31, Georgia voters will head to the polls to vote on a proposed regional transportation sales tax.

Politicians from both major political parties are salivating at the idea of yet another funding source for their Soviet-style centralized planning schemes.

And it seems that the upcoming transportation tax vote has one benefit - exposing the big government, pro-tax politicians in our midst.

This 1 percent sales tax is only the beginning of transportation costs experienced on designated projects.

Additional first costs, maintenance and operating costs and indirect costs of these projects are not funded and will come back to the taxpayers of Newton County in the form of additional tax burden. Some of these projects will require large future operating and maintenance costs with no identified long term future funding source to pay for these expenses. How can these expenses be paid without additional large future tax increases?

The Transportation Investment Act, which authorized the T-SPLOST, provides that if the voters in any region vote down the T-SPLOST, that region can put together a better projects list and bring it back to the voters in two years.

Georgia law (Code 32-5-30 Congressional District Balancing) calls for equal distribution of all state and federal tax dollars to be distributed equally across all Georgia congressional districts. The Georgia Legislature can change the law so that the funds are used where they are needed to alleviate traffic congestion and make necessary improvements across the state Georgia Regional Commission and Metropolitan Planning Organization Boundaries indicate that Newton County is in Region 5, Northeast Georgia. Originally, our legislators were attempting to include an "opt out" clause in the bill that would allow a County to vote to not participate but it was not approved. As it is now written, Newton County would be included as the entire Region 3 voted.

The T-SPLOST projects list has some ultra-expensive projects that are only partially funded. Does the region plan to build a quarter of these projects and leave them unfinished and useless? Or, if the region plans to complete these projects, how will they be paid for without coming back to taxpayers for even larger future tax increases?

An additional 1 percent sales tax is actually a 14 percent tax increase! Think about that and don't be lulled to sleep by characterizing this cost as only 1 percent. The City of Covington and Newton County currently have a 3 percent local sales tax in addition to the 4 percent state sales tax.

All decisions regarding government and spending that you now make are critical to the survival and prosperity of our county and our country. We have lost much these last several years and there is no end in sight. We all must work to reduce the size of government and regulation, reduce spending and return to Home rule.

Vote NO on T-SPLOST on July 31 and write our own destiny.


William Perugino is active in local and regional politics and can be reached at william.perugino@jacobs.com.

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