How the Republicans’ Anti-Government Rhetoric Has Come Back to Bite Republican Governments: Georgia Edition
Anyone who’s lived in metropolitan Atlanta in recent decades (as I did until 1995) knows its infamously snarled highway traffic. But any Georgian also knows that it would be impossible to raise taxes to do something about it—at least since 2004, when Republicans achieved control of both the legislative and executive branches of state government for the first time since Reconstruction. Last week’s calamitous defeat of a sales-tax-for-transportation referendum in metro Atlanta and most of the state showed that when push comes to shove, Republican governing can’t survive the Republicans’ anti-governing message.
Shortly before he left office in 2011, Sonny Perdue—modern Georgia’s first GOP governor—set up a complex mechanism whereby voters would impose temporary higher sales taxes on themselves to pay for specific transportation projects, as agreed upon by local elected officials in twelve specially designated regions of the state. But he and other GOP leaders—including the current governer, Nathan Deal—and a business community desperate for a solution to the transportation crisis, did not anticipate that the Tea Party Movement they did so much to encourage would take so seriously its violent anti-government rhetoric, to the extent of fighting these TSPLOST (for Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) referenda tooth and nail.
They know it now: In a vote held on Primary Day, July 31, TSPLOST went down hard in nine of the state’s twelve regions, including metro Atlanta (where it lost 63-37), despite an unopposed $8 million pro-TSPLOST ad campaign and official support from most Republican and Democratic party leaders.