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?

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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Mass Shootings And Masculinity Go Hand In Hand

What we're not talking about.

Nineteen mass shootings. Nineteen mass shootings have happened since January 2018 and we’re only in the middle of February. This past shooting at Parkland high school really hit me hard. As I saw the victims of the shooting they reminded me of the kids that I went to high school with. One of the victims was apart of her high school’s color guard and I thought about how much I loved guard when I was in high school. I connected with her.

I saw the videos posted on Snapchat of what the students actually experienced and shed tears with my hand covering my mouth from shock. I saw how insanely graphic the scene was and how being there physically can traumatize one for the rest of their life. No one should have to go through this.

The debates on tv include those of gun control and mental health. On social media, different countries are being thrown around as examples for both stricter gun control, and the allowance for more guns. I also see how the shooter was seen as “mentally ill”, and the stigmatization of those who have mental health issues are dangerous is furthered. The one issue that no one is talking about that plays a huge role in these mass shootings in masculinity.

A large majority of these shooters are white men. While these shootings are also a racial issue I’m going to focus on the gender issue. From a young age, men are exposed to what society deems as masculine. Media hypermasculinized everything to the point where it’s ridiculous. Don’t believe me? Look up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and see how ridiculously buff they are. They’re cartoon turtles, yet the societal standard of masculinity applies to them.

Even when it comes to toys the commercials for nerf and water guns show only males. Showing that guns are masculine. Young boys are raised to engage in masculine activities or they’re isolated socially and emotionally. Even when young men are engaging in “masculine” activities they still may not be good enough. Getting angry, being the bad boy, having a temper are seen as “cool” traits that males desire to have in order to give themselves an edge.

Now most young boys go through this, and masculinity is not the main factor in mass shootings but it is still a factor. It is a factor that we need to consider because eliminating any factor that helps to produce a mass shooter can help save lives.

Cover Image Credit: Brooke Cagle

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Analyzing The Situation In South Africa

South Africa is in a tenuous position after President Jacob Zuma resigns from office.

Countries across the world were surprised this Valentine’s Day by sudden news out of South Africa. President Jacob Zuma, also head of his own party, the African National Congress, resigned after being mired in a corruption scandal for weeks.

As a politician, Zuma has been no stranger to controversy, having earned for himself the nickname, “The Teflon President,” due to his ability to dodge backlash from multiple scandals throughout his presidency. Why then, did he feel the need to resign?

Zuma faced pressure from the members of the ANC, calling for him to step down after numerous scandals continued to destroy the credibility of the party and undermine support. Some of the scandals include Zuma’s refusal to repay millions in public funds that were spent on refurbishing his lavish homestead. He has also faced criticism and scrutiny in the decades since a controversial arms deal back in the 1990s.

Opposition party leader and longtime critic of Zuma, Mmusi Maimane, stated his relief at the President’s resignation, saying that Zuma has long been, “…a one-man wrecking ball to our economy, our country.”

Maimane also stated his party’s intent to put forward a candidate shortly to oppose acting president Cyril Ramaphosa, who Maimane’s Democratic Alliance views as an unworthy and incorrect choice to lead South Africa.

South Africa’s future is altogether uncertain and the situation has likely confused many countries around the world, leaving them unsure as to what the outcome will be. Only time will tell and the country is sure to struggle with its leadership in the coming weeks.

It will be up to the citizens of South Africa to remain calm, focused, and secure in their beliefs during the current situation.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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