Press release from Citizens for Transportation Mobility, the campaign advocating for passage of the July 31 Regional Transportation Referendum
ATLANTA, June 13, 2012 --National coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots Debbie Dooley endorsed raising gasoline taxes this week, which would result in a never-ending tax hike with no specified project list and no citizen oversight committee regularly reporting on how the tax receipts are being used.
Speaking at a forum on the upcoming Regional Transportation Referendum hosted by the Civic League for Regional Atlanta, Dooley supported raising gas taxes while at the same time being critical of the Department of Transportation for management of current gas taxes.
“We support increasing the gas tax, which has not been done since 1991,” Dooley said at the forum, which was first reported by the Saporta Report. “There are other service fees. Telecommuting, which could be encouraged via tax credits. We could have van pools set up, like Microsoft did in Redmond, Wa. …There are a lot of solutions and alternatives we would recommend.”
Unlike the July 31 transportation referendum, raising the gas tax would be a permanent tax increase with no specific sunset date. In addition, higher gas taxes would go into the general transportation budget instead of citizens being able to specifically vote on what projects will be funded. This would lead to taxes collected in one region being available to be spent around the state rather than the money staying in the region where it is raised. The referendum also calls for a five-member citizen oversight panel that will file yearly audits on the progress of the projects funded. Raising the gas tax would not result in this level of citizen oversight and accountability.
This follows previous Tea Party comments supporting more toll roads in the region. Julianne Thompson, another leader in the Tea Party Patriots movement, pressed for more tolling when appearing on a panel hosted by Atlanta Journal-Constitution.“
We have been waiting on the opposition to come up with their ‘Plan B’ and we now see that they want to build more toll roads, raise gas taxes and take away the power of citizens to vote on a specific project list,” said Che Watkins, campaign manager for the advocacy group Citizens for Transportation Mobility. “We are frankly shocked that a Tea Party leader would advocate for higher permanent taxes with less public accountability.”
While the per-gallon excise tax on gas has not been raised in decades, the per dollar sales tax on gas rises and falls every six months based on the average price of gas. On Friday, Governor Nathan Deal halted a scheduled increase in the gas tax because of drivers’ frustration with high gas prices. The gas tax Dooley wants to raise would need to be increased by 25 cents per gallon to raise an equivalent amount of funds for transportation as the July 31 referendum will raise.
Also, Dooley advocated for telecommuting tax credits and van pools, which have been available in the Metro Atlanta region for years. While these programs are worthy and should be continued, they are not new ideas and cannot be counted on by themselves to solve Metro Atlanta’s traffic congestion.