The Livable Communities Coalition

Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth

Cobb Voters Back Local Sales Tax

COBB CO. – Early backers of next year’s sales tax referendum for transportation held their breath as Cobb County voters went to the polls Mar. 15 to renew – or not – a 1-cent sales tax for county government.

On Mar. 16, they exhaled.

The razor-thin victory for the sales tax renewal – 79 votes out of 43,000 cast – was widely seen as proof that rough economic times and anti-tax sentiment don’t automatically spell defeat for tax proposals.

Political observers saw at least two other lessons.  First, when turnout is low (it was 11 percent Tuesday in Cobb), victory goes to the side best able to turn out its base.  With next year’s transportation sales tax referendum set for summer, sandwiched between the much sexier presidential primary early in the year and November’s presidential election, the implications are obvious.

Second, it’s important to have the right list of projects.  Janel Davis reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

As for the regional SPLOST, the outcome could turn on how many people see a direct practical benefit, said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

“If you have spent enough time sitting in a traffic jam and have to do that on a regular basis, I think you will be willing to pay for that,” said Bullock. “If you are inconvenienced you are more likely to vote for it.”

The possible good news for regional sales tax backers in 2012: Who isn’t inconvenienced?  But will voters see direct practical benefit in the list of transportation projects to be paid for by the tax?

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