There’s little comfort in knowing Columbia County voters agreed with our call to reject adding an extra 1 percent to the sales tax to pay for transportation projects. Most of the counties in the 13-county region voted otherwise, so come Jan. 1, everyone’s taxes on local purchases go up by 14 percent. Happy new year.
Statewide, the TSPLOST proved to be spectacularly unpopular, with just three of Georgia’s 12 districts approving its passage. Because of the law implementing TSPLOST, all of the counties in those districts now will have to come up with 30 percent of the money to pay for state-funded road projects; Columbia County, and others in those three approving districts, will have to fund just 10 percent.
Because of such disparities, it’s almost certain the tax will face legal challenges. That means it’s entirely too early for supporters to do a victory dance or, like Augusta Commissioner Joe Jackson, to be looking ahead to renewing the tax in 10 years.
That proves, again, that starting a tax is easier than killing it.
Legal skirmishes aren’t the only problem. Lee Anderson will be forced during the 12th District runoff to defend his vote enabling the referendum. And in a couple of years, when a local sales tax expires, even its most dedicated supporters will have trouble persuading voters to renew it.
That certainly would be a shame. Every dime of local SPLOST funding stays here at home, while a projected $23 million from TSPLOST will leave Columbia County and go to projects elsewhere in the unaccountable CSRA District. Our county could suffer if approval of the bad-deal TSPLOST damages support for local sales taxes.
In the meantime, Jackson certainly is right about one thing: Voters will be watching closely to see how this new money is spent, and how much is squandered.
Especially here in Columbia County, where we didn’t want it in the first place.