Legislators move to plan B after TSPLOST defeat

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ATLANTA - Gov. Nathan Deal says he's already working on his transportation priorities after voters soundly defeated the TSPLOST.

Voters overwhelming said no to the tax with 65 percent voting against it. The tax would have funded 157 projects across 10 counties in the metro Atlanta area.

Channel 2's Lori Geary spent the day Wednesday tracking down Georgia leaders to find out the next step for trying to ease congestion in metro Atlanta.

Deal made it clear the decisions on what transportation projects get funded will be made at the top and doesn't expect another referendum vote or an expansion of MARTA.

"The result is there will be a smaller group," Deal told Geary.

Deal said the decisions of which transportation projects get funded now lie with him, the Department of Transportation and regional traffic planners.

"We're gonna have to sharpen our pencils," Deal said.

Deal told Geary his No. 1 priority remains the Georgia 400/285 interchange and did not mince words when it comes to putting money into the state's only commuter rail system.

"MARTA needs to be fixed. Before the taxpayers are going to spend any more money on MARTA, voters sent a message. Not gonna put more money into something that is not functioning with the revenue that is available," Deal said.

"When we decided as a public not to solve the problem through a 1-cent sales tax, we now leave the other mechanisms in place. Those mechanisms are very limited. They are tolls and they are the gas tax," House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams said.

Abrams, who supported the TSPLOST, told Geary she'd like to see another transportation referendum.

"I would like to see that happen. I don't know how likely that is," Abrams said.

"I have no interest in that. (The) public has expressed their opinion on that," Deal said.

"Georgia cannot afford to not address transportation. The fact that we lost is not a reason to not try again. We just have to do it smarter and better this time," Abrams said. "Because we refused to do the one penny, everything is now on the table."

 

Failed vote to have political impact


Local political supporters of the TSPLOST are bracing for the potential fallout after Tuesday's failed vote.

Gov. Nathan Deal, Republican, partnered with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Democrat, to become the faces of the pro-TSPLOST campaign.

Deal pointed out that he inherited the TSPLOST referendum from former Gov. Sonny Perdue.

"It was a process that was ongoing when I became governor. I felt it was my responsibility as a governor to embrace that and to move forward and make the best of it," Deal said.

Deal may have been reluctant to embrace the idea, but in the end, the conservative Republican was out in front, telling his constituents to vote yes. They did the opposite.

"I don't [think] that looks good for Republican primary voters," said Channel 2 Action News pollster John Garst.

Garst is a campaign strategist with Rosetta Stone Communications and says the failed vote could hurt Deal if he has a primary challenger in two years.

Garst said Deal is not fully to blame and points the finger at the business leaders who ran the $8 million Untie Atlanta campaign.

"They came up with a voting scheme and a polling scheme that had these people convinced that they were going to win, and it wasn't true," Garst said.

Garst said there could be more political fallout if Georgia leaders don't address the issue of transportation funding.

"[If] everything that the pro-TSPLOST side said is true, and the sky really is going to fall, and we're going to turn into Birmingham, and all the jobs are going to Dallas. If all that's true, then they better be down there on day one, fixing this. If they don't, no one's going to believe them ever again," Garst told Geary.

Garst said polls showed that when Deal announced a plan to get rid of tolls on Ga. Route 400, support for the TSPLSOT actually went down.

Garst said voters saw the move as a gimmick to drum up support for the tax.

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Opposition has their own plan


In Atlanta, you can be sure it will be hot in the summer and the southbound lanes of the connector will be slow during rush hour.

It's one thing to be against the TSPLOST referendum that was voted on Tuesday, but now Channel 2's Jeff Dore asked opponents of the plan if they have another idea.

"So we crossed an ideological divide and think we've come up with some good ideas," Colleen Kiernan of the Sierra Club said.

Among the leaders joining forces against TSPLOST were the Georgia Tea Party, the Sierra Club and state Sen. Vincent Fort with the NAACP.

"Is there going to be a plan B?" Dore asked Fort

"I'm going to work hard to come up with a solution," Fort said.

The odd couple of the Sierra Club and the Tea Party made a joint list of proposals to solve transportation problems.

First Name? Kiernan from the Sierra Club said they are looking to "restore accountability and transparency to the agencies that deal with transportation and restore voters trust in them."

"They're going to have to earn our trust before they get any money from us," said Debbie Dooley of the Tea Party.

Among their proposals: Do away with state-mandated taxing regions.

"Actually push for a constitutional amendment to allow for county commissions, to determine which counties they want to go in partnership with for their transportation needs," Dooley said.

"Once you put aside the partisan divide that we normally function in you can find common ground with people that may not view the world the way you do," Kiernan said.

Click here for an online list of common goals.