How The Taxes Georgians Already Pay Could Have Saved I-85

How The Taxes Georgians Already Pay Could Have Saved I-85

Where did our tax dollars go, Georgia?
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As a college student who commutes near Atlanta on a regular basis, I was shocked to learn that on a regular Thursday evening of rush hour traffic, the city's major interstate highway I-85's overpass collapsed due to a blazing fire. No lives were lost because thankfully, troopers had the good sense to question the stability of the bridge prior to its collapse and had taken the initiative to block entry into the highway's overpass. As the traffic jam worsened considerably, residents naturally began to reevaluate the debilitating condition of our Georgia highways – wondering, weren't our tax dollars supposed to prevent things like this?

Theoretically, yes. As shown in Georgia's 2017 Fiscal Year Budget, 7.6 percent of the annual budget is allocated for transportation. In fact, on February 19, 2016, Governor Nathan Deal approved "a $750 million increase in the state budget for road and bridge improvements" due to House Bill 170 which took effect July 1, 2015, "resulting in a large increase in gas tax collections... since it is applied to the number of gallons people purchase instead of the sale price."

This sounds like a constructive effort, until you recall that it's only a portion of the 7.6 percent of the state's entire fiscal plan how could that possibly be enough to maintain Georgia's seven interstates, including the I-85 which is 178 miles alone, when it costs $4 million per mile just to expand an interstate highway?

This is why the 2.8 percent is a questionable figure. According to Georgia's state constitution, excise taxes are fixed special fees charged for specific goods, such as gasoline – hence the motor-fuel tax, which contributes "about 4 to 5 percent of state revenues." This tax stipulates that "the state must spend whatever amount is raised by the motor-fuel tax on roads and bridges."

So why is a mere portion of 7.6 percent of our taxes being used to fix our roads?

Truckers asked the same question when they filed a class-action lawsuit against the Revenue Department on September 18, 2015 "to ensure that all the taxes collected on motor fuel go toward road improvements." Locals followed suit in the call to fund renovations that have been overlooked time and time again "to build a local school or park, or to roll back property taxes."

This is a clear cause for concern, considering Georgia's gas tax often fluctuates, from being the 49th on the national scale in 2009 to ascending 18th place in 2012.

This gas tax (aka the motor-fuel tax) is composed of two parts: a sales tax on the purchase alone and an excise tax of 7.5 cents per gallon. The sales tax varies based on the price of gas whereas the excise tax is set for the year. But it's reported that "even in the relatively high-tax years, our spending on roads and bridges remains comparatively low," which would explain why the Atlanta highways are in brittle condition today.

Our 2017 excise tax was updated in January to 26 cents per gallon of regular fuel and 29 cents per gallon for diesel, totaling to about a 6 cent increase in gas price since 2015.

But don't get too comfortable yet folks, because it was also decided in January that Georgia's gas tax will go up 0.3 cents to a total 31.20 cents per gallon. Whether that tax is used to repair our roads, however, is another story.

Cover Image Credit: Fox News

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The Trump Presidency Is Over

Say hello to President Mike Pence.

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Remember this date: August 21, 2018.

This was the day that two of President Donald Trump's most-important associates were convicted on eight counts each, and one directly implicated the president himself.

Paul Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, but the charges brought against him don't necessarily implicate Trump. However, they are incredibly important considering was is one of the most influential people in the Trump campaign and picked Mike Pence to be the vice presidential candidate.

Manafort was convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to file a report of a foreign bank account. And it could have been even worse. The jury was only unanimous on eight counts while 10 counts were declared a mistrial.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. Those two women are believed to be Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornstar. Trump had an affair with both while married to his current wife, Melania.

And then to no surprise, Fox News pundits spun this in the only way they know how. Sara Carter on Hannity said that the FBI and the Department of Justice are colluding as if it's some sort of deep-state conspiracy. Does someone want to tell her that the FBI is literally a part of the DOJ?

The Republican Party has for too long let Trump get away with criminal behavior, and it's long past time to, at the very least, remove Mr. Trump from office.

And then Trump should face the consequences for the crimes he has committed. Yes, Democrats have a role, too. But Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress, so they head every committee. They have the power to subpoena Trump's tax returns, which they have not. They have the power to subpoena key witnesses in their Russia investigations, which they have not.

For the better part of a year I have been asking myself what is the breaking point with Republicans and Trump. It does not seem like there is one, so for the time being we're stuck with a president who paid off two women he had an affair with in an attempt to influence a United States election.

Imagine for a second that any past president had done even a fraction of what Trump has.

Barack Obama got eviscerated for wearing a tan suit. If he had affairs with multiple women, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be preparing to burn him at the stake. If they won't, then Trump's enthusiastic would be more than happy to do so.

For too long we've been saying that Trump is heading down a road similar to Nixon, but it's evident now that we're way past that point. Donald Trump now has incriminating evidence against him to prove he's a criminal, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just getting started.

Will Trump soften the blow and resign in disgrace before impeachment like Nixon did? Knowing his fragile ego, there's honestly no telling what he'll do. But it's high time Trump leaves an office he never should have entered in the first place.

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Eminem Isn't The First Rapper To Use Homophobic Slurs, But There Needs To Be Consequences

Homophobia and offensive words have become a staple of the rapper's career. But what actions should be taken going forward?

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On August 31, Emimem released a surprise album. It was the latest in a career known for controversy. And this new effort didn't disappoint. Well, it at least didn't disappoint half of the world's population. The other half wasn't surprised in the slightest. Disappointment over Eminem using a homophobic slur wasn't just a ship that sailed. It sailed, hit an iceberg, and there was no chance at resuscitating any of the victims.

On his new album, "Kamikaze," Eminem took a shot at Tyler The Creator, using the word "faggot." Ordinarily, I would hear about something like this and look for the exact context of the statement. In a world of clickbait headlines and fake news, it's important to hear every side of a story. In this case, Eminem wasn't just using the slur as an insult, he was making specific references to gay sex. In an interview following the album's release, Eminem appeared remorseful. However, he later repeated the same sentiments in his diss track to Machine Gun Kelly, minus the slur. His intentions were clear.

Whether or not he's homophobic, Eminem clearly sees homosexuality as a weakness. It's rather surprising coming from a man who has earned such fame and wealth. Normally, that kind of success exposes you to all kinds of people and your old fashioned prejudices fade away into oblivion. Or maybe you just become more quiet about it. After all, we do live in a "cancel culture" now. That means that any offensive tweet, lyric, or quote could result in the end of your livelihood in a twenty four hour time span.

Punishing people for their bigotry has become commonplace in the current year. Eminem, however, is similar to Kanye West in that he's become well known for being politically incorrect. So maybe that's why, unlike so many others, they can get away with it. But a part of me still expected Eminem to one day take the Jay-Z school of acceptance. Jay-Z spoke out in support of marriage equality, a major shift in the rap game. I believe this is mostly because Jay-Z earned his way out of a rough neighborhood where your masculinity was crucial to staying alive.

I'm not sure why Eminem is so fixated on gay sex or homosexuality in general. Maybe he's an isolated figure. Maybe he simply hasn't grown out of his old way of thinking. Maybe he doesn't get out much. But whatever the reason, it does make me wonder about the consequences of making such statements. I don't think ending someone's career and destroying their reputation is the way to go. There might be some truth in the commonly held belief that what you do comes back to you. And if that's the case, all these loud mouthed keyboard warriors have a lot coming to them.

Don't get me wrong, I understand where the keyboard warriors are coming from. When I was in sixth grade, Eminem was the biggest rap star alive. And he was known for saying "faggot" in his lyrics. At the same time, I was out at school and getting bullied mercilessly by kids using that same word. A part of me couldn't help but feel like Eminem was in some way contributing to that culture. The culture where homophobia was considered cool.

However, as an adult, I understand that the problem is a lot bigger than Eminem. It has to do with the parents, whose job it is to monitor what their children listen to. It has to do with religion, where many are taught that homosexuality is a sin. It has to do with peer pressure, where kids will try to follow the pack to be cool, at any cost. So many factors go into a culture that engages in divisive language and bigoted behavior. Simply getting a celebrity dropped from their brand deal or fired from their television show won't change the culture. It will only cause people to keep their mouths shut.

If we really want things to change, it's going to take a lifetime of work. The work starts with us. It starts with how we treat people on a daily basis. It starts with how we teach our children to behave. It starts with prioritizing what's most important with what isn't. I may not have any clue what the momentary consequences should be when a public figure says something offensive. But what I do know is that changing the culture, slowly but surely, will have an impact that is more lasting than momentary.

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