Most Georgia counties will be "punished" for voting down T-SPLOST

7:29 PM, Aug 3, 2012   |    comments
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  • Map showing how "yes" and "no" regions will be affected
  • T-SPLOST opponents' repeal news conference
  • Voters on Tuesday

ATLANTA - Just when you thought all that fuss over the T-SPLOST was over, it reared its head again Friday.

Many Georgians who voted against the transportation sales tax on Tuesday probably did not know that most of their home counties will be penalized for saying "no".

"The last thing that we need is a penalty tax for our voters voting their consciences," complained Republican Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown on Friday.

The outspoken T-SPLOST critic joined others at a State Capitol News Conference to urge repeal of HB 277, the 2010 bill that set up Tuesday's sales tax referendum.

Even though the tax was defeated in 9 of 12 regions across the state, counties in the regions that voted it down will still pay...big time.

A little publicized clause in the law [48-8-244 (d)] requires counties in the 9 regions that said 'no' to pay 30% of the cost of future transportation projects.

But it only requires the 3 regions that voted "yes" to pay 10%.

"You shouldn't have penalties attached to a public referendum on either side," Brown said.

The Fayette County Commissioner predicted the penalty will cost most of Georgia's counties "millions of dollars" for local transportation projects while they are already slashing basic services.

He claimed many will have to abandon such improvements.

State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) opposed the tax and said he favors repeal.

House Speaker David Ralston's office sent 11 Alive an email saying he, "feels it is important the state approaches making any changes to the terms of the (law) in a very careful and deliberate way, especially in a time when some are openly questioning trust in government."

Ralston's statement added, "The Speaker will be carefully weighing this proposal as we approach the 2013 legislative session."

Since that session doesn't begin until mid-January, Brown and other T-SPLOST opponents urged Governor Nathan Deal to use an executive order to prevent the "no" penalty from going into effect until the legislature can consider repeal.

The Governor supported the tax, but said Wednesday the voters have spoken and he doesn't see any point in placing the issue on the ballot again, even though the law would allow it to reappear in two years.

When asked Friday if Deal would consider executive action to keep the penalty from going into effect, a spokesman wrote 11 Alive, "The Governor swore to uphold the laws and constitution of the state of Georgia; There is no provision allowing him to suspend a law such as this through executive order, outside of some emergency scenario."

The Governor's Office added, "Conservatives have rightly criticized President Obama for abrogating laws through executive order; the rule of law is sacred."

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