Judging from comments on the Newton Citizen and Rockdale Citizen websites, public sentiment must be running 20-to-1 against the T-SPLOST. Many people are angry about many things. Broken promises about the Ga. 400 toll booth. Unfulfilled plans for a Newton County Civic Center. Rockdale being a "donor" county. Taxes. Government. Politics. Lots of other stuff. There is plenty to be angry about. Voting against the T-SPLOST is a powerful way to express that anger. If that was all there is to it, I'd vote "No" too. Instead I'm voting "Yes," and I hope others will join me.
Some improvement is better than none. A "No" vote will leave us without the resources needed to make important improvements in the transportation system. Two years from now we'll be in the same boat, except that needs will be even greater and we'll be that much farther behind. The transportation system is a fundamental component of our economy and it affects every citizen every day. Torpedoing it to make a political point would be dramatic but counterproductive. Failure to maintain and improve our infrastructure is little different than blowing it up. Whether it crumbles over time or all at once, it is still in pieces. A "Yes" vote will not make the transportation system perfect, but will make it better.
There is more to gain than there is to lose. We work, reside, shop, worship and seek entertainment across county lines. A "No" vote on the basis of not wanting to pay for projects in other jurisdictions is kind of silly. We are all Georgians and most of us cross several county lines each day. What is there to lose in voting "Yes?" The additional tax will cost each family $10 for every $1,000 it spends on retail purchases. It will make little financial difference to any of us as individuals but makes a big impact for everyone as a community.
Neither Rockdale nor Newton can afford to vote no. There are severe penalties for counties and districts that vote against the T-SPLOST. The local match required for future transportation improvement expenses will be either 30 percent or 50 percent instead of 10 percent. So whether we vote "Yes" because we think it is the right thing to do, or because we feel we have a gun to our head, it is the only rational option.
The T-SPLOST is not perfect and will never have unanimous support. If it does pass, the implementation will be imperfect. There will likely be delays, cost overruns, and headline-grabbing cases of malfeasance. But the enduring legacy will be major infrastructure improvements that outweigh and outlive whatever mischief occurs along the way.
It is up to us as responsible stewards to exercise mature judgment even when doing so conflicts with our emotions. Please speak up and please vote "Yes" on July 31.
-- Chris Jueschke