I was wrong: no change in 2012 TSPLOST referendum date, failure seems likely statewide

I had been working under the assumption that Governor Deal would successfully persuade some reluctant Georgia lawmakers to move the date of next year’s referendums on regional transportation sales taxes (the so-called TSPLOST) from the summer primary to the November general election.

But the effort to move the vote ended on Wednesday. From the AJC’s piece Republicans, unable to reach compromise, pull plug on moving transportation referendum:

And while the governor’s staff told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Associated Press on Wednesday that the governor and GOP leaders in the Legislature had agreed to move the date, Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, later said no deal had been reached.

That led to the decision to pull the issue entirely and leaves supporters of the transportation referendums — which could add $6 billion over 10 years for metro Atlanta transportation needs — trying to build a campaign without a firm grasp on when the vote will actually be held.

The move to November 2012, or staying in July, might be a critical factor in whether the referendum passes in metro Atlanta, depending on how close the vote is.

One political analyst, Republican pollster Mark Rountree, said failing to get the date moved was “totally” not a blow, since the referendum still has a chance of passing in July, and the date still has a chance of being moved to November.

But will the same Republicans who opposed the move to November 2012 change their minds in the next few months? Maybe, but why would they? They’ll be under steady pressure from Tea Party supporters and other anti-tax conservatives to leave the vote right where it is. Some additional Democrats might be willing to go along with a switch later — many of them were opposed this summer because of bitterness over redistricting. Still, the Republicans are in control and I’m not sure why they’d change their votes.

And do the regional sales taxes have good — even fair — chances of passing in the July 2012 primary, when the polls will presumably be dominated by those interested in the Republican Presidential primary? No.

I’ve consistently said that this regional system — another lousy idea to come to the fore during the Perdue administration — is flawed, and asking voters to tax themselves to fund critical infrastructure is a huge political cop-out.

And now it looks like the state will dither around with this for another year before being forced to go back to the drawing board.

Charlie Harper has an interesting column about what this means for the Atlanta area, where the need for transportation spending is greatest: Atlanta TSPLOST On Track To Be Roadkill.

By the way, this week’s special session might have revealed some deep fissures between the governor and the legislature’s Republican leadership. The AJC also notes:

For Deal, the crumbling of the apparent agreement came after lawmakers failed to make changes the governor wanted to new state House district maps. As the Republican-controlled House redrew the 180 state House districts, they split Hall County — Deal’s home county — into seven pieces.

Ralston said it was his “objective to fix the problem,” but the maps passed both chambers and were sent to Deal’s desk with Hall County still a puzzle. Despite that, however, the governor late Wednesday signed both the House and Senate maps into law.