Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Perdue takes a pass

Governor Perdue gave the annual "Eggs and Issues" speech this morning, and this is what he had to say about transportation.  I am probably pushing fair-use doctrine here, but the ABC didn't actually do any reporting on this, they just transcribed the speech:
A thriving business climate also includes a transportation network that supports commerce. Early in my first term, I was assured that the solution to our transportation needs was to spend more money. Like many government programs, the only diagnosis was lack of money and the only prescription was to spend more of it.

But, just as I discussed earlier in education, too often we measure government programs by how much we spend instead of measuring the results of spending. As many of you remember, I launched the Fast Forward program in 2004, an idea that would speed up construction of needed projects.

This chart shows federal and state transportation spending over the last five decades when calculated as a percentage of GDP. There have been several points in our history where we ramped up our investment – in the 60s when we built out the interstate system, in the 80s when we added lanes to those interstates and constructed MARTA, and in the last several years under Fast Forward.

This next chart looks at the last 12 years – the six years of my administration and the six years prior. When you look at the data, it is clear that we have made a significant investment, and that our failure to keep up with an increasing demand is a problem decades in the making – not one that is fixed overnight.

On Friday, I met with the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker for a very productive session on our mutual commitment to address our transportation needs. We all agree that the most important thing for our citizens is delivering value for their tax dollar.

With our increased recent investment, one might expect our transportation problems to be solved. But we didn’t get the value that I was looking for from that money. That is why I commissioned Investing in Tomorrow’s Transportation Today, or IT3, to provide a “needs assessment” of where we are today and understand whether there is a business case for new investment.

The results came back loud and clear. There is great promise that we can deliver value if we can execute on the findings of IT3, but there is no sense in investing if you cannot be assured of a dividend, of a return.

We have proven that more money by itself is not the answer. It is clear that we need a functional, efficient system for delivering value, and the results of IT3 illustrate that it is possible.

Once I feel certain that we can deliver transportation value to Georgia citizens, I will support prudent, responsible measures to raise additional revenues. I believe we will come to consensus on funding, and I believe we will stand up a system that can take that funding and provide the value Georgians deserve.
I'm not really sure what this means. Basically that we've spent a lot of money recently, it didn't help as much as we thought it would, so we are only going to fund projects that will bring the most relief.  The big old caveat is that we'll spend more money and raise taxes when Perdue believes "we can deliver transportation value".  What exactly does that mean?  

It is like when state Reps say they'll fund MARTA when it "cleans things up".  The bar is so vague, you have no idea when you've passed it.  Even if you demonstrate improvements, they still say its not good enough, and give you more vague language.  It lets Perdue promise nothing, in effect.  Perdue hasn't been as awful as he could have been on transportation - he recently came around on commuter rail, and he has shaken up a DOT that desperately needed shaking up.  Those actions notwithstanding, Perdue still seems afraid to take a stand on anything controversial, especially regarding transportation.  

Political Insider's take on the transportation debate is here, but basically it looks like Perdue isn't interested in a regional tax.  He doesn't take a strong stand on anything, though he is playing footsie with Speaker Richardson's statewide sales tax idea.  I, of course, have little faith that a state-administered transportation tax would help transit in the least.  
The speaker said the problem requires a statewide tax that goes for everything from road projects and rail in Atlanta, to figuring out routes to steer traffic away from the city. Of the regional transportation idea, he said, “I believe that plan will not fix transportation.”

Afterwards, Gov. Sonny Perdue told reporters, “The speaker made some good points. Transportation is a statewide issue. I want a statewide solution to transportation as well.”

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said he couldn’t comment on Richardson’s proposal because the speaker’s comments were “general.” He added, “A statewide, one penny increase in the sales tax just for transportation would probably be difficult to pass in the Senate.”


  1. Although counter-intuitive, an Atlanta transportation plan will only receive traction for Statewide support if rural/suburban/exurban residents are convinced of the economic benefits of a robust and modern transportation system for their communities.

    To many of these communities, Atlanta is perceived as a threat to their values, etc. Of course, that is coded along whatever racial/economic/cultural lines are most appropriate. The folks in these communities communicate these feelings to their State legislatures, who in turn, consistently vote against any and all transportation proposals.

    The bottom line is that Georgia benefits from Atlanta, and rural communities economically benefit from Atlanta's success. ITP'ers get it. OTP'ers 5-10 miles outside get it. However, any transportation plan for Atlanta that presumably includes commuter rail to outerlying cities must receive the approval and be understood by members of those communities.

    Lobbying these communities would be extraordinarily difficult...but not impossible.

    Or, we could just elect a Democratic Governor. Heh.

  2. I certainly perceive Atlanta as a threat to my tax dollars and I live here. Are there really any great US cities where traffic is improving?

    Atlanta has been fortunate to have had many years of growth. (It's really nice here.) I can't imagine having that sort of growth anywhere without creating a nearly unmanageable transportation situation.


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