GDOT Planner Says Blogger Wrong About Sales Tax
Todd Long takes offense at Mike Lowry's claim the regional sales taxes will set up a GDOT slush fund.
Mike Lowry was wrong in his blog implying that the GA Department of Transportation was planning to move federal dollars out of a region that passes the transportation sales tax, said Todd Long, GDOT's director of planning.
"He was saying this is all a big slush fund for GDOT," Long said. "Nothing can be further from the truth."
Money raised from the transportation sales tax would be banked. The agencies are reimburses for expenses, sending invoices to be paid back.
"We deliver the road project and GRTA delivers the transit project," he said.
"Another thing is, all the money coming to the region is allocated to projects," Long said.
The GDOT official said Lowry's argument was that if TSPLOST passes, it frees federal dollars allocated for projects to be used elsewhere. Long, however, said HB 277 clearly states that money designated for a region–whether it is sales tax or federal dollars–must stay in the same region. If federal dollars can be taken off a project because sales tax dollars can fund it, then the federal dollars can be used for another project in the same region.
HB 277 48-8-244.1.
The approval of the levy of the special district transportation sales and use tax in a special district shall not in any way diminish the percentage of funds allocated to a special district or any of the local governments within a special district under the provisions of subsection (c) of Code Section 32-5-27. The amount of funds expended in a special district shall not be decreased due to the use of proceeds from the special district transportation sales and use tax to construct transportation projects that have a high priority in the state-wide strategic transportation plan. If a special district constructs a project on the approved investment list using proceeds from the special district tax, then the state funding under subsection (c) of Code Section 32-5-27 shall not be diverted to priority projects in other special districts.
"Here's the deal: The bill has language in it that says you can't sue the vote one way or another to decide to disperse the money. Regular expenditures have to stay similar to where they were," Long said.
"Number two is, let's not forget that only a small percentage of the projects in Atlanta... actually have any federal aid on them. Most of the projects are 100 percent sales tax money," he said.
"I take serious offense to his accusations that this is a slush fund to the state's benefit. It helps the region more than anything we could have done," Long said.