What does T-SPLOST say about the future of governance?

A couple of days ago, I posted A few final thoughts on T-SPLOST.

Sorry about that. The T-SPLOST story is resonating in some interesting ways.

I just posted T-SPLOST failures prompt “credit negative” warning from Moody’s.

And in this post are links to a couple of interesting pieces looking forward.

From the excellent magazine Governing, What The Georgia Vote Means for Transportation:

The vote had been followed by members of the transportation community across the country, largely because of its timing, just a few weeks after Congress passed its surface transportation legislation known as MAP-21. Most transportation observers didn’t consider that legislation to be particularly ambitious, since it didn’t boost transportation funding, despite calls from many advocates decrying the condition of America’s infrastructure. It also didn’t tackle the big questions about the growing insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund or how to provide future revenue for transportation.

But many viewed the Georgia vote with some hope. If Congress wasn’t willing to make a serious commitment to transportation, would voters at the local level step up?

In the Atlanta region — the first major metro to face that question in the MAP-21 era — the answer was no.

This conclusion is a strong one — and I agree with O’Hare:

Kerry O’Hare, director of policy at Building America’s Future, is skeptical of Atlanta-area voters who raised questions about accountability. She says it would be difficult to imagine getting a more detailed list of projects than what was released by the regional districts. “For people to say ‘we don’t know what the money going to go to,’” O’Hare says, “is not a real argument.”

She says the Atlanta situation could impact the national debate. One school of thought that has gained traction in conservative circles is the idea that the federal government should scale back on its transportation investment and instead rely on states and localities to take on more responsibility.

In this case, voters rejected that role, raising the obvious question: if Congress has punted on transportation, and local voters have too, who will ultimately foot the bill? “What are people waiting for?” O’Hare says. “You wonder what the breaking point is.”

Thankfully, we in the Savannah area don’t have the problems that metro Atlanta has. A few years or even a decade of dithering won’t be the end of the world (except for a few unlucky souls who die on Highway 80 over the next 20 years or so).

There’s a great column by Fayette County resident Jill Howard Church from the Aug. 1 AJC (I just read it): T-SPLOST results are signs of the times

From Church’s piece:

Dead End. The ultimate destination for T-SPLOST in the foreseeable future. Opponents haven’t offered much in the way of alternatives, and piecemeal local projects with limited funding won’t do much to address the larger regional issues that planners and voters should have tackled two decades ago before conditions got the way they are now.

But because traffic will only get worse as roads and bridges decay and urban sprawl continues, the lack of a coordinated transportation plan is a classic example of being penny wise and pound foolish. Maybe it’s a sign we’re going nowhere.

So what’s the breaking point?

1 comment for “What does T-SPLOST say about the future of governance?

  1. K. W. Oxnard
    August 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Hi Bill,

    This whole thing is so disheartening. Where do American citizens think their roads, bridges, railways, electrical grid and airports are supposed to come from? Corporate vultures like Halliburton? We saw how that went down in Iraq, and it ain’t pretty.

    That horrifying bridge failure in Minnesota a couple of years ago is just the beginning, especially in a bridge-dependent county like coastal Chatham. Our roads feature potholes big enough to swallow the SUVs we refuse to give up.
    We’re losing our postal system bit by bit. And yet we stubbornly refuse to see the connection between paying a bit more in taxes and getting more and better goods and services from our local, state and federal governments. So very odd, vexing and frustrating for those of us who believe in the (limited) power of government to change the lives of its citizens for the better.

    Alas, I fear that we are turning into a third world country as the rich get richer, the middle class dissolves, the poor get even more desperate and our infrastructure disintegrates before our very eyes. I’ve spent tons of time in the third world: I lived in Puerto Rico in the 1970s, traveled throughout southeast Asia in the 1980s and ’90s and have visited Mexico twice in the last decade. Our roads and public transportation systems are rapidly becoming all too similar to those in the above-mentioned countries–broken-down, decrepit, even dangerous. So why aren’t people up in arms about this? And why oh why did they vote down T-SPLOST?

    The Wall Street Journal David Wessel said it best on “On Point Radio” this past week: “Americans want ever more in government goods and services–but they don’t want to pay for them in higher taxes.” It is this absurd, childish, fantastical and selfish attitude that will run the U.S. into the ground–literally.

    Corporations can’t solve these mega-problems, people. Only government–which, ultimately, is all of us, no matter how much we may despise it–has the wherewithal to undertake big public works projects. FDR is surely spinning in his grave.

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