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Missing from nearly all the criticisms was a clear explanation of what should happen next once the measure fails — a very real possibility if recent polls are any indicator. And in each there's a misunderstanding of the political realities not just in metro Atlanta, but under the Gold Dome.
Creating a new list of projects if the tax goes down in flames would require another vote by the Legislature. According to an analysis of the law by the Atlanta Regional Commission, the entire process could take as long as four years.
State and local leaders, including Gov. Nathan Deal and Mayor Reed, have made clear that there's little-to-no appetite among state lawmakers to revisit the issue, which has been time-consuming, public, and brutal, if it fails at the polls.
"If that is what happens, then I don't I believe there will be an immediate effort," Reed told CL the day after the project list was finalized. "This moment in the life of the region is as pivotal as anything you and I have seen in our lifetimes. I think what's going to happen is we'll be chasing Mississippi. That's what my T-shirt's gonna say."
Others have suggested that the state should raise the gas tax, which hasn't increased since the early 1990s. Even if that were to happen, the state Constitution stipulates that gas tax revenues can only be spent on roads and bridges. Efforts by the Sierra Club and other greenies over the years to change that stipulation to allow funding for transit have gone nowhere.
Yet even if the tax passes, it's guaranteed to be challenged in court. At a recent panel discussion hosted by the Fulton County Taxpayers Association, Phil Kent, a GOP pundit and consultant, told the crowd that some anti-tax legal eagles are already preparing a lawsuit.
The T-SPLOST's fate remains a topic of debate. Polls taken during the roundtable process showed approximately 50 percent of metro Atlantans felt something needed to be done to fix the region's transportation mess. But in recent weeks, as efforts to block the measure have begun in earnest, fewer respondents wondered if the project list and the tax was the best way to solve the problem. A steady stream of polls showed support dropping to as low as 36 percent. The bad news helped convince Reed to release an internal poll commissioned by Untie Atlanta that showed support about even. He's jumped into campaign mode to pass the measure.
The reason, to him, is obvious: "I think that it will be very hard for us to maintain our current position as the most significant and leading economy in the Southeast," Reed says. "I really think that's what is at risk."